The story of modern slavery taking place today on tomato farms in Florida remains mostly unknown. Forced to work long hours while being paid very little, and living in crowded and dirty boarding homes, many farmworkers are held against their will by employers. These working conditions have been in operation for decades yet most consumers know very little about how the produce in their salads and sandwiches was raised and harvested.
The terrible working conditions on tomato farms in Florida have been taking place for decades yet most consumers know very little about how the produce in their salads and sandwiches was raised and harvested. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
CIW was formed in 1993 by farmworkers who wanted to put an end to near slavery-like conditions in which they and their families worked. The organization has since grown to gain lobbying power, taking on farm owners, corporations, and restaurants, as well as raising the public’s general awareness of farmworkers rights.
The museum is literally a cargo truck and was designed to be a replica of those that are used to transport forced laborers. Poster board with photos, history, and quotes line the sidewalk in front of the truck, as well as the walls inside, and are full of information collected and developed in part through consultation with workers who have escaped forced labor operations.
More than just giving a voice to the story of modern slavery, CIW hopes to put a stop to it. The organization has sponsored a number of worker marches in the past few years and even managed to raise wages for many farmworkers in the state. In the past five years, corporations like Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway have signed on to improve working conditions and ensure fair pay for tomato pickers.
And with every museum visitor, the organization creates an educated consumer who can now make more informed choices when it comes to selecting that salad or sandwich.
To find out when the museum will be near you, see the tour schedule.
To read more about working conditions for farmworkers and others in the food industry, see: Fighting for Farmworkers’ Rights for More than 40 Years, In a Global Food System: Breaking Down Barriers and Improving Livelihoods for Food Workers, and Making Sure the Food Industry Works for its Employees.