2018 Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Remarks of Neal Rosenstein, Vice President of the Puffin Foundation. ALBA/Puffin Human Rights Prize May 12, 2018
Good afternoon friends. On behalf of Perry and Gladys Rosenstein & the Puffin Foundation, I’d like to share a few brief words about the honorees for the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism for this year. This $100,000 award recognizes and encourages individuals or groups whose efforts have a positive impact, on the advancement and/or defense of human rights.
Today, we are deeply honored to recognize the incredible achievements of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Workers, organized in unions and organizations like the Coalition are a threat to corporate abusers and fascists alike. As the Joe Hill song goes: “There is power in a union.” That power of workers was recognized, and viciously and ruthlessly repressed by Franco, and of course, by countless authoritarian powers around the world. And that “workers’ power” continues to be repressed today, in Washington DC and in countless states across the US.
One might wonder what kind of chance farmworkers would have in today’s globalized economy, in a world of corporate farms and inhospitable state laws, against the organized power of the state and agribusiness. This climate is what makes the successes of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers all the more extraordinary. Their hands-on organizing, coalition building, protests, boycotts and forging alliances with consumers has demonstrated the modern day power of organized workers. They’ve successfully fought for fair wages, improving working conditions, and eliminating some of the agricultural industry’s worst human rights abuses from participating farms, including sexual violence and slavery.
They took on the tomato growers of Florida…and won.
They took on Taco Bell…and won
They took on Subways & Burger King & McDonalds …and won.
They took on the heart of corporate America…WALMART… and they won there too.
And so, it should come as no surprise, that after all those victories, that they’ve won yet one more – this year’s ALBA Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Michael McCanne | 212-674-5398
February 15, 2018 | www.alba-valb.org
ALBA honors the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for its innovative organizing and profound impact on the lives of farmworkers
New York—On May 12, 2018, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives
(ALBA) will present the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in support of their continued efforts to protect the rights of agricultural workers, prevent involuntary servitude, and create a food supply chain that is fair from bottom to top. One of the largest monetary awards for human rights in the world, this $100,000 cash prize is granted annually by ALBA and the Puffin Foundation in honor of the 3,000 Americans who volunteered in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) to fight fascism under the banner of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Founded in 1993 by a small group of workers who had been meeting in a church, the CIW fought to improve the lives of tomato pickers in Southern Florida. After years of organizing in Immokalee, in 2001, the CIW launched the first ever boycott of a national fast food company—Taco Bell. Four years later, the company agreed to support wage increases and workplace protections for tomato pickers. Since then, food corporations, including McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway, and Walmart have followed suit and reached agreements with the CIW. Today, 14 of the world’s largest food retailers and restaurants have signed fair food agreements with the CIW.
Building off these unprecedented agreements, the CIW created a revolutionary program to make the agriculture supply system more equitable: The Fair Food Program, a groundbreaking partnership among farmworkers, food retailers, and growers to ensure decent wages, safe working conditions, and a real voice on the job for farmworkers. The program, which today spans seven states and three crops, has virtually eliminated some of the industry’s worst human rights abuses from participating farms, including sexual violence and slavery.
“The Fair Food Program has proven itself to be a uniquely effective solution to the scourge of slavery and other human rights abuses in agriculture,” said CIW Member Julia de la Cruz. “Even more recently, the program has provided a success model for ending sexual violence in the age of #MeToo, as the country seeks to combat sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.”
“In its commitment to social justice and human dignity the CIW keeps alive the same values that motivated the women and men who stood up to fascism in the Spanish Civil War” said Fraser Ottanelli, Chair of ALBA’s board. The ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism is an initiative to sustain the legacy of the experiences, aspirations and idealism of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. It supports contemporary international activists and human rights causes. The award was created by visionary and philanthropist Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation, who established an endowed fund for this human rights award in 2010.
Award Ceremony: Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 2:30 pm
Japan Society, 333 E 47th St
New York, NY 10017