The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a vibrant farmworker organization of five thousand members strong. Since its founding in 1993 in Immokalee, Florida, CIW has challenged some of the biggest companies in the world and won concessions that have improved the lives of Florida farmworkers, who are among the most disenfranchised people in the United States. 90% of the winter tomatoes grown in the US come from Florida, picked primarily by immigrants from Latin America, Haiti and Africa. Tomato pickers are paid by the piece: 45-50 cents per 32 pound bucket of tomatoes. In a ten-hour day, a worker would need to pick over 2.25 tons to make minimum wage. In addition, tomato pickers commonly face inhumane living and working conditions, including a number of documented cases of modern-day slavery. The 2012 Food Sovereignty Prize honors CIW for its dedication and efforts to improve the inequalities in the food system in Florida and beyond.
“A penny more per pound” is the most well-known element of CIW’s groundbreaking Fair Food Program, an extensive code of conduct for food companies, which creates better working conditions for farmworkers through improved wages, access to basic necessities like shade and water and the ability to report abuses without fear of retaliation. Through creative organizing, education and strong partnerships across sectors, CIW has become a national force; ten of the largest retail corporations in the world have committed to participate in the Fair Food program, including Taco Bell, McDonalds, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.