CIW wins Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice! (yes, that Salem…)

The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice Foundation has selected the Coalition of ImmokaleeWorkers to receive its 17th annual human rights award "for its work to eliminate modern day slavery in the agricultural industry"! You can read about the announcement on the foundation’s website, here.

Brian Watson, a columnist for the Salem News, traveled recently to Immokalee and has written a series of excellent opinion pieces on the situation of farmworkers in Immokalee and the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food. You can read his columns here:

The foundation’s website describes their mission and the unique roots of their work:

"The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice Foundation was established in 2001 to carry on the work of the Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Committee. The Foundation, under the leadership of the Mayor of the City of Salem and the President of Salem State College, works in cooperation with local museums, the National Park Service, the business community, and the larger community to keep alive the lessons of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and to make known in our region the unheralded, heroic work of bringing justice to fruition in contemporary society.

Our mission is to recognize, honor, and perpetuate the commitment to social justice and human rights of an individual and/or organization whose work is proven to have alleviated discrimination and promoted tolerance of any kind." read more

In a separate article from the Salem News reporting the announcement of the 2009 award, Meg Twohey of the Salem Foundation explains the connection between Salem and Immokalee:

"Meg Twohey, a member of the Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice Foundation, said the lives of Immokalee farmworkers and Salem residents do cross paths.

‘Their tomatoes are delivered to our fast-food restaurants and to our table, so we are a part of a food chain that goes all the way back to their work and to the very difficult conditions they continue to have,’ Twohey said. ‘But certainly none of us would imagine it would involve slavery.’"

Here are the details for the May 8th award ceremony:

The Salem Award presentation and reception, set for Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Peabody Essex Museum, is free, though reservations are recommended because space is limited. Lucas Benitez, one of the coalition’s founders, and Gerardo Reyes-Chavez will talk about their work and accept the award on behalf of the group.

A dinner with the award recipients will be held beforehand at the Hawthorne Hotel at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are $50.

Reservations for either event can be made by calling 978-745-2682 or visiting

The CIW is humbled by this tremendous honor and we look forward to working with the Salem foundation in the months ahead to continue the fight for fundamental human rights and social justice in the agricultural industry.