From CIW to our generous supporters: thank you for supporting our work!

Charles Dickens, on the holiday season: “It is a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they were really fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

There is no easy way to say this. This past year has been filled with great darkness here at home and around the world: with the COVID pandemic still stealing so many of our loved ones from us before their time; with the brave people of Ukraine, under constant deadly attack, now forced to endure bitter cold without light or heat while standing in the breach against an autocratic tyrant; with Hurricane Ian taking so many lives right here in Southwest Florida, and leaving those who survived the storm’s brutal winds and floods to piece their lives back together in neighborhoods now left in desolate shambles; and with the continued prevalence — indeed surge — of brutal forced labor operations in US agriculture beyond the reach of the protections of the Fair Food Program. With hatred and division on the march, democracy under attack, unrelenting mass shootings, the list could go on and on.

One could be forgiven for succumbing to hopelessness and despair, for losing the will to work so hard, day in and day out, for justice and social change in the face of so many truly existential challenges. But that has never been our way here in Immokalee, where, for the community of migrant workers who are building a future for their families in Florida’s fields, turning away from challenges is a luxury they just can’t afford.

And this past year was no exception. We are proud to report that, over the course of 2022, and despite all of the year’s challenges, with your help we have:

  • Expanded the Fair Food Program – the gold standard for preventing human rights abuses in corporate supply chains – domestically, in Colorado and Maryland, and overseas to tulip greenhouse workers in Chile, who bring the colorful flowers to the cities surrounded by snowcapped Andes mountains;
  • Helped ensure that countless men and women on guestworker visas no longer have to toil in terror by bringing one multi-state slavery operation, which we uncovered in 2016 when workers escaped from a farm huddled in the trunk of a car, to justice here in Florida, and working with state and federal law enforcement agencies to bring another massive operation, dubbed “Blooming Onion” by federal prosecutors, to justice in Georgia;
  • Delivered first response aid to those suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, taking food, clothing, supplies and our own labor to the churches and devastated homes of Ft. Myers, aid made possible through your donations; and,
  • Launched a promising new partnership with the Scottish, Irish, Filipino, and Ghanian fishermen who work in the bitter cold of the North Sea to put fish on tables across Europe and around the world, to help them build and launch a “Fair Fish Program” in the UK’s storied fishing industry.

And those are just a few of the remarkable advances we have been able to achieve in a year marked by such trials and challenges. We are local at the same time that we are global. We are growing the light as we battle the darkness. And we couldn’t do any of this extraordinary, life-changing work without you. Indeed, as the Fair Food Program and the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model continue to grow and change workers’ lives across the globe, your own impact, through your generous donations, continues to grow, as well.

And that’s because, like Scrooge’s kind nephew in the classic Christmas tale, you don’t see other people as just “another race of creatures” but rather as fellow humans on the same journey. And so you open your hearts, all year and every year, to give to the organizations, like the CIW, that you know truly transform people’s lives, whether it’s preventing modern-day slavery from gaining a foothold in US fields, or ensuring that women in the apparel factories of Lesotho in Southern Africa have somewhere to turn — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — when their supervisor threatens to fire them unless they accede to his advances.

You support real, tangible social change and for your commitment to that simple but transformative practice, we could never thank you enough.

As the sun sets on 2022, and the new year dawns with all its own challenges and opportunities yet to be revealed, we count on you for your continued support, and hope you can enlist your friends and family in supporting our exciting and transformative work, as well. Every donation helps, and goes directly to support our efforts to reach more farmworkers with the critical protections of the Fair Food Program. We wish you a joyous 2023, and hope that you, as do we, may draw strength and inspiration from those around the world today who never give up fighting for justice, democracy, and equality, even in the face of struggles that make our own remarkable fight for change seem ordinary.

Lucas Benitez
Coalition of Immokalee Workers