The Farmworker Association of Florida
* By Bob Maschi, FCWA Volunteer
“Can you imagine rising before the sun, enduring long hours of physical labor, surrounded by the extreme Florida heat and humidity, as well as constant exposure to pesticides? And after giving your full, physical self you still earn deplorable wages and live in impoverished conditions?” – Tirso Moreno, General Coordinator of The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), from the video: Sowing the Seeds of Justice
The Farmworker Association of Florida was formed in 1983 and expanded statewide in 1992. They now have over 10,000 member families and five offices in the state of Florida, including in Apopka (main office), Fellsmere, Homestead, Immokalee and Pierson. Their membership includes Hispanic, Haitian and African American farmworkers in over 15 counties statewide. Their long-standing mission is to build power among farmworkers and low-income rural communities to respond to and gain control over the social, political, workplace, economic, health, and environmental justice issues that impact their lives.
The organization’s philosophy rests in challenging the current agricultural system that keeps farmworkers and the rural poor in poverty, vulnerable to exploitation, oftentimes victims of intimidation and mistreatment, and subject to unsafe working and living conditions. FWAF harnesses the collective power of their ethnically diverse farmworker membership in order to build strong communities to create a unified force in which farmworkers can advocate on their own behalf for better laws, policies, regulations and systems for themselves, their families and for future generations of farmworkers.
The organization’s aggressive advocacy promoting fair and just conditions and justice for farmworkers and immigrants has resulted in many statewide and national victories. Over the years, FWAF has organized tens of thousands of farmworkers and supporters to participate in rallies and protests for social justice, including organizing some of the largest immigrants’ rights demonstrations in the state in 2006.
Through this work, FWAF has been successful in securing improved health and safety regulations for all Florida farmworkers related to transportation, field sanitation, and pesticide exposure. Many of the organization’s efforts involve the underreported dangers of farmworkers’ contact with dangerous chemicals, including pesticides. FWAF helped push through a state Right-to-Know law in 1995 and again in 2005 and conducts ongoing health and safety trainings for health care providers, and for farmworkers
The organization’s advocacy work also means that farmworkers in Florida are covered under Workers Compensation and minimum wage laws. FWAF has secured improvements in wages and working conditions for farmworkers in over 60 Florida companies, ran a citrus workers co-op for close to ten years, and created economic development projects in their communities. The FWAF has taken on an international profile with active participation in the National People of Color and Indigenous People Environmental Leadership Summits, the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, two World Social Forums and the Southeast Social Forum. FWAF is currently a member of the international organizations La Via Campesina (LVC) and the Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI). In addition, FWAF works in coalition with other groups in the U.S., including the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Domestic Fair Trade Association, the Agricultural Justice Project, and the Rural Coalition, among others.
Farmworkers feed the world! Yet, big agribusiness gets a break on their taxes, while farmworkers break their backs working in the fields. They perform the hardest and most dangerous work, often face racism, detention and deportation. All that for pay that can barely provide for a subsistence standard of living.