The Moral Economy of Farm Labor:  Notes on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers



Richard W. Coughlin

Associate Professor of Political Science

College of Arts and Sciences Florida Gulf Coast University

Fort Myers, Fl  33965-6565



Peter S. Stedman

Adjunct Professor of Politics and Economics

College of Arts and Sciences

Florida Gulf Coast University

Fort Myers, Fl  33965-6565



Prepared for Presentation at the 2000 Latin American Studies Association Conference in Miami, Florida


Abstract:  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is advancing a vision of how farm work could be organized that is directly at odds with the project of growers and important elements within the federal government.  Where CIW advocates the self organization of workers, growers and their allies within government are attempting to implement new mechanisms of labor control in which a workers' legal status and housing arrangements become tied to their relationship to their employer.  This clash of visions explains why the growers have been unwilling to engage the CIW in dialogue.  These underlying circumstances form the context in which the authors examine the CIW's efforts to place public pressure on the growers.  At this level, the conflict between the CIW and the growers turns upon how the growers, the CIW and the plight of the farmworkers are publicly understood.  The CIW stresses the right of farm workers to the same treatment that workers in other industries receive.  The growers dismiss demands for wage increases by pointing to international economic competition. 

            These notes present our understanding of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and its vision for transforming the nature of farm work.   Immokalee is an agricultural town, located about 35 miles due East of Naples on Florida’s gulf coast.  The population of Immokalee varies from around 10,000 during the summer months to around 25,000 during the winter and spring growing seasons, a period that lasts from the end of October to the end of April.  Immokalee’s migrant farm workers are mostly from Mexico and Guatemala.  They consist largely of single men, many of whom maintain households in their natal countries.  Mediating between the farm workers and the landowners – whom we will refer to as the growers – is the class of labor contractors.  Six days a week during the season, contractors recruit laborers to work on tomato farms and orange groves, the two most prominent crops in Southwest Florida’s agricultural economy.  The workers come to Immokalee as parts of small social networks.  These consist of friendships forged over the course of the farm working life, of kinship and friendship ties rooted in one’s village of origin, even of households in which farm workers are hierarchically linked to labor contractors[1]. 

Beyond the scope of the small social networks, Immokalee is an anomic social environment in which workers, uprooted from a variety of different cultural contexts, coexist within a highly fluid economic setting.  There are high levels of substance abuse – alcohol and drugs – as well as prostitution.  Within this sort of setting, coalition members argue, farm workers face two options – they can be backsliders or productive individuals.  The CIW offers opportunities for individuals to productively engage themselves in changing their economic and social reality.  Over the course of its five year existence, the CIW has developed an alternative vision for how farm working can and should be organized.  It is a vision that emphasizes the capacity of farm workers to organize themselves into self-governing communities.  It is a vision that makes moral demands on farm workers in terms of sobriety, discipline, and responsibility to the larger group, and collective leadership.

The clearest expression of this vision can be seen in the manner in which core members of the coalition organize themselves during the summer picking season.  Core members form labor crews that contract directly with small farmers in the water melon harvest.  The harvest moves from northern Florida, to Georgia, to Missouri.  The workers had previously worked with a contractor – the uncle of a coalition member – but eventually accumulated the capital to purchase a conveyor belt, which allowed them to go into business for themselves.  There were several consequences of working without a contractor. 

·        Workers were able to organize the harvesting process themselves, a task they addressed by rotating tasks from one group member to the next as opposed to the specialization of tasks throughout the harvest season.

·        Workers made more money because there was no longer a contractor to take a cut of the revenues devoted to harvesting. 

·        Workers could also divide the revenues in any way they saw fit. The group’s method has been an egalitarian distribution of harvesting revenues, including equal shares to group members unable to work on a given day. 

This model for organizing the harvesting process underscores the capacity of farm workers to assume a different relationship with the growers – one of partnership for mutual benefit.  There are numerous possibilities for progressive change through such a partnership.  Accessing any of them will require dialogue between growers and farm workers.  The standard practice, however, is for growers to manage farm workers through labor contractors.  The CIW has consistently requested dialogue with the growers and they have been consistently refused on various grounds.[2]  This dialogue – or, at least, the prospect of its occurrence – lies somewhere in the future.  Our discussion of the CIW now turns toward the present.  Where is this organization in the present?  How are its current practices moving it – or attempting to move it – in the direction of its desired future?   To answer this question, we consider the CIW’s ongoing work in three different areas:  correcting the worst abuses of the current labor contracting system, issue advocacy (which includes immigration legislation and housing issues), and organizing within the public realm.  A major theme that runs through all of these efforts is the CIW’s vocation to educate and empower its membership. 

            Workers are subject to a variety of abuses within the labor contracting system.  Wages are withheld.  Payroll deductions for social security and medicare are stolen. Extra work is imposed through the requirement of forming a competa or dome over the top of the each bucket to tomatoes or citrus picked.  Because labor contractors benefit disproportionately from higher harvests, they place constant pressure on farmworkers to speed up the pace of their work.  This pressure occasionally flares into violence.  The last recorded violent incident occurred during the 1996-97 growing season.  To respond, coalition members organized a march of some 500 workers to protest at the home of the crew leader responsible for the incident.  Coalition members also take direct action on the job by refusing to work for lower than piece rates and by insisting upon minimally satisfactory work conditions.

            Legislative advocacy has been conducted in response to two successive proposals to reform immigration laws as they pertain to undocumented farm workers.  Both pieces of legislation aimed to address labor shortages in agriculture and the accumulation of undocumented workers within the United States.  The latest proposals, Senate bills 1814 and 1815, sponsored by Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-ORE), address both issues at the same time through establishing a federal registry of farm workers.  Through participation in the registry, undocumented workers are accorded the status of guest workers.  The legislation would have the Labor Department manage the registry through assigning farm workers to growers requesting labor.  The assigned workers would be paid minimum wage – or slightly above, depending on local conditions. They would be bound to work for the grower to whom they were assigned in order to retain their place within the registry.  Where workers on the local registry are not available, growers could recruit foreign workers.  Workers participating within the registry would be eligible to receive a green card after having worked more than 180 days in agriculture in five out of seven years.  In a given year, only twenty percent of those workers eligible to receive a green card would actually be given one.  For most workers, earned amnesty would be a protracted and uncertain process.

The coalition’s critique of this legislation is shared by farm worker advocacy groups across the country.[3] The principle difficulty is that earned amnesty is a form of labor control.  Workers would be bound to their bureaucratically brokered contracts with growers.  The reason is simple:  these contracts establish the basis for the worker’s legal status and his or her continued participation in the earned amnesty program.  In such a context, workers could not effectively organize themselves to pressure growers for better wages or working conditions.  The idea of a bureaucratically organized labor market is profoundly at odds with a market-oriented approach to the problem of dwindling labor supply.  From this perspective, growers must offer better wages and working conditions to retain a quality labor force.  Historically, however, growers have opted for public policy interventions that expand the supply of labor.[4]

            At the present juncture, however, growers seem to be opting for new mechanisms of labor control.  The need to control labor arises from growing labor shortages across the country.  Indeed the labor shortage is providing undocumented workers with unprecedented opportunities for lateral mobility within the labor market.  This is not only because of the booming economy, but also a result of I.N.S. restraint.  Whereas the agency polices the border more aggressively than ever, it has largely stopped its efforts to detain illegal migrants already in the country.   Arrests for deportation, reports the New York Times, have dropped by 22,000 in 1997 to 8,600 in 1999.  The union Unite, which organizes in low wage industries, recently negotiated a union contract that bars I.N.S. raids unless agents have a search warrant.  And the company must notify the union if it gets wind of a coming raid.[5]  

These conditions may eventually generate labor shortages in agriculture.  Growers are quick to point out that such shortages already exist.  In 1999, the Gulf Citrus Growers Association and the Florid Fruit and Vegetable Association reported labor shortages of 40 percent.  “I know of growers who left crops in the field last year because they couldn’t get people to bring them in,” observes Walter Kates, director of labor relations for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.[6]  If labor is so scarce, then why haven’t wages risen?  The threat or reality of labor shortages, in this context, may well mean a shortage of workers at wages that employers are willing to pay.  Seen in this context, the Graham-Smith legislation ties labor to agriculture in exchange for wages at or slightly above the minimum wage and a remote promise of citizenship.  More liberal proposals make the promise of citizenship less distant, but nonetheless seek to tie migrant labor to agriculture.[7]

                From their point of view, growers do not regard wages as a key issue for attracting and retaining a productive labor force.  Housing, not wages, accounts for the bulk of farm worker poverty.  Bradenton grower Jay Taylor sums it up best : “There are some bad guys out there, and those are the slumlords….The farmer has gotten too much of the blame for what the slumlords have done.”[8]   Statements such as Taylor’s illustrate how housing frames the issue of farm worker poverty, particularly in Immokalee.  A walking tour of the near North side of Immokalee reveals dozens of dilapidated trailers, duplexes, single story dormitories, and shacks.  Workers pay a premium to live in these structures so as to be within walking distance to the parking lot of the Pantry Shelf, the place where labor contractors recruit their crews during the early morning hours.  Poor housing is easily the most visible aspect of farm worker poverty. 

In late 1998, growers in Immokalee banded together to form a housing task force.  The announcement of the task force’s formation came just a week after two of the major growers in Immokalee announced a five cent raise in the piece rate.[9]  In February of 1998, governor Bush followed up with a request for federal disaster funds to finance housing.  Growers would play a key role in this initiative through donating the land on which new housing units would be constructed.  Better housing, argues Jay Taylor, would “..tie the employee relationship that much closer.  It ensures that quality people – good solid employees – have good solid employment.”[10]  Taylor advocates building housing in a central location in downtown Immokalee.

Coalition leaders worry that linking housing to employment will create an atmosphere in which workers feel less free to ask for better wages and working conditions.  These concerns are highlighted by what the coalition experienced when it tried to hold talks with workers at the Six L’s farm in East Naples, which has onsite workers barracks.  Lucas Benetiz recalls that a supervisor “…chased coalition members in their car and followed them to a store off of US 41 where sheriff’s deputies were called.”   When informed of the incident, owner Larry Lipman replied that “I don’t like the idea of Coalition having a meeting on my property.” In a Naples Daily News visit to Six L’s, a reporter and photographer were denied access to the camp or to speak with workers unaccompanied.  Four men were later brought back from the fields to be interviewed while their crew leader stood nearby.[11]

In important ways, the housing and immigration agendas are interconnected.  Investments in housing depend on legislative provisions that will secure a stable and legal workforce.  John Scala, human resources director for Cooperative Producers Inc. in Immokalee and labor committee chairman for the Gulf Citrus Growers’ Association notes: 

You have owner-operators in Southwest Florida who are ready and able to spend millions of dollars on housing projects, if the H-2a [i.e., Graham-Smith proposal] is approved.  Right now we’re in a holding pattern.  If we know there is a mechanism for people to be brought in from offshore, and for undocumented people to be documented, then we can build housing, recruit employees and feel fairly confident that we’ll have a stable work force.[12]

Like the federal registry, employer owned housing implies greater control over workers.  The workers’ sense of place – already precarious due to their migrant and, in many cases, undocumented status – would be defined almost entirely in terms of the employer/employee relationship.  The CIW’s project moves in precisely the opposite direction – toward greater worker autonomy. 

The idea of autonomy can be clarified by contrasting the notions of positive and negative liberty.  Negative liberty is the freedom of the marketplace, the absence of external constraint.  An illustration of this perspective comes from Fritz Roka, a research economist with the University of Florida in Immokalee.  Reflecting on the Coalition’s recent march and its demands for an increase in the piece rate, Roka commented that

As long as workers are willing to get on the labor pool bus at a certain rate, who are we to say that’s unfair?  To say that workers aren’t getting paid enough is to get into value judgments…What’s a living wage to me is different than from an 18 year old male.  I think that’s best left to the market, with the big provision that people can make choices.[13]

What choices do farm workers have?  They can choose to work for a number of different labor contractors.  They may choose to work in different crops.  Remuneration in citrus is higher than in vegetables, but also more physically demanding.  Farm workers may also choose to work in non-agricultural industries, such as construction. The point here is that these are all decisions that farm workers can make autonomously, as individual economic agents.  When the Coalition asks for dialogue with the growers, it is asserting its right to speak for farm workers.  It is proposing collective social action rather than the market as a means for generating economic outcomes such as wages and working conditions. Roka’s suggestion is that workers are better off following their own individual preferences within the labor market.  Outcomes generated by collective action would impose values on the preferences of individuals social actors.  For example, the decision to strike on a given day subjects farm workers to considerable pressure not to work.  The most recent work stoppage in Immokalee – in December of 1999 – was an emotionally intense standoff between strikers, police and workers who boarded or considered boarding the contractors’ buses.  The strike was a collective project; it was no doubt at odds with the preferences of numerous individual workers.[14]

The argument for collective social action is that isolated individuals are too weak to effectively address their interests.  Farm workers want higher wages and better working conditions, but as individuals acting within the market place, there is little chance of them securing these interests.[15]  Collective action requires mobilizing the resources of the community in order to achieve commonly held interests.  Farm workers can become free to develop their own potential only with the context of a mobilized community.   Here new choices become possible, choices that would stem from the ability of workers to engage in dialogue with the growers over wages and working conditions.  This autonomy is prefigured in many of the Coalition’s activities.  Acting collectively, Coalition members have been able to curb the worst abuses of labor contracts – withholding wages and using violence to intimidate workers in the field.  The recent increase in the piece rate occurred only after the Coalition had captured national attention for farm worker grievances through the 1997-98 hunger strike.  

What constitutes the community?  Here it is useful to discuss community at the level of the farm workers in Immokalee and in terms of the linkages between the Coalition and the broader public realm in Florida.  Within the Immokalee, the coalition conducts weekly meetings on Wednesday evenings at its headquarters on Third Street – adjacent to the Pantry Shelf parking lot.  The meetings are informal.  Coalition leaders use the meetings to initiate dialogues with the workers in attendance.  In our experience, these discussions are oriented toward explaining the actions of the Coalition and providing workers with an identity-in-struggle.  The latter emerges through a rhetoric that emphasizes the common humanity of all farm workers.

            In a story that is often repeated among members of the Coalition, one farmer asks another what he thinks of the demands of the Coalition.  The other farmer dismisses these demands with the comment, “a tractor does not tell a farmer how to run his farm.”  In response to the remark, the CIW created a large picture of a tractor with the caption “no soy tractor” (“I am not a tractor”) emblazoned across it.  Dozens of workers signed their names to the image.  The point of this representation is that it is the growers who depriving the workers or their humanity.  To struggle against the growers is to reclaim one’s humanity.  The same theme recurs in a number of the political cartoons produced and disseminated throughout Immokalee by the Coalition (one can find these cartoons taped or pasted to the walls of buildings around downtown Immokalee).  One cartoon poses the question, “How do you want to spend the new year (2000)?   A diagonal line divides the page in two.  In the image on the upper left hand side of the page, the farm worker is on all fours – like a farm animal.  A bloated patron (or boss), with a cocktail in hand and a cigar in his mouth, rides on the back of the worker saying “dale, dale, cabron!  Otro ano mas de ser mi burro! (com’on, com’on you bastard, one more year of being my donkey!).   In the bottom right frame, the worker embraces his wife and daughter and says, “Ya con el aumento que conseguimos entre todos, puedo descansar feliz con mi familia para la fiesta!”  (With the increase that all of us obtained, I can rest happily at home with the family).  The daughter chimes in, “Si papi!  Ya podemos todos tener una vida digna, no solo los patrones.”  (Yes, Daddy, now we can all have a dignified life, not just the bosses).   The opposition here is stark:  either farm workers are burros or they lead dignified lives.  The latter is possible only when concessions have been wrested from the patrons. 

        In another example, the coalition created, in preparation for their recent march from Fort Myers to Orlando, a paper-mache donkey, which they intended to shatter on the doorstep of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association in Orlando.  The point of the gesture, of course, would be to shatter the image of workers farm animals and to affirm their status as human beings.   Again, this identity-in-struggle emerges only in opposition to the growers.

        In their discussions with workers, Coalition leaders explain the actions and the overall trajectory of the coalition.  In meetings before the march, coalition leaders showed a video of the March of the Americas in which members had participated the previous autumn.  The camera showed workers marching over the George Washington Bridge and into New York City, the final destination of the march.[16]  Police helped to direct traffic around the march. This was evidence that immigrant farm workers could enter the public realm to call attention to their working conditions.  Coalition members made a similar point about their most recent March, from Ft. Myers to Orlando.   The videos demonstrated, once again, that farm workers could claim a place for themselves within the public sphere.  When workers who participated in the march were asked what they liked best about the experience, they replied that it was their ability to move about in the public realm.

  There is a sense of place articulated in these discussions which asserts that farm workers have a place in this society.  One finds this in the ways in which the Coalition organized the march.  Leading the procession of marchers was a paper-mache statue of liberty, mounted in a pick-up truck, with a tomato clutched in her extended right arm and the bucket of tomatoes cradled in the other.  At the base of the statue was the inscription, “I, too, am America.”  This statue of liberty was brown skinned (morena).   The image here bears a certain resemblance to the appearance of the brown skinned Virgin of Guadalupe to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego.[17]  In both, the symbols of the dominant culture are appropriated by the oppressed.  So now the statue of liberty is brown.  Now her promises apply migrants farm workers as much as they do other Americans. 

  Coalition publicity for the march emphasized just this point.  A flyer advertising the march shows the Statue of Liberty holding in her arms a book with the inscription liberty and justice. The accompanying text reads: 

 Conoces tu quien es esta dama?  Se llama la dama de la libertad!  Y supuestamente esta para dar la bienvienida a todos los inmigrantes a este pais…pero en vez de una bienvenida, recibimos nada mas que bajos sueldos y malos tratos y por eso…vamonos a la gran marcha pas la dignidad, respeto, y los sueldos justos!

  Do you know who this lady is?  She’s called the lady of liberty.  And supposedly she’s there to give welcome to all the immigrants to this country, but instead of a welcome, we receive nothing but low salaries and poor treatment and so let us go on the great march for dignity, respect, and just wages!

            Again the message is that her promises apply to us, we farm workers.  The thrust of all these statements is to assert that workers have rights.  This view is reflected in a statement made by Coalition member Romeo Ramirez prior of the march: "By virtue of the hard work we do, we have earned the right to talk to our employers about our wages and other working conditions."[18]

              It was essential for this assertion of rights to be highly public in character – as, indeed, it was.  Marchers traveled along U.S. 41 from Fort Myers to Tampa and on route 92 from Tampa to Orlando.  These thoroughfares are an indispensable part of the public realm in Florida.  Following social critic James Howard Kunster, we can define the public realm as “the connective tissue of our social experience”.  The public realm, argues Kunstler, is a democratic social space.  “It is made of those pieces of terrain left between the private holdings.  It exists in the form of streets, highways, town squares, parks, even some parking lots….the true public realm…is that portion of our everyday world which belongs to everybody and to which everybody ought to have access most of the time.”[19]  The march was an eruption of the Coalition into the connective tissue of our social experience.  Occupying the right hand lane of U.S. 41 between Ft. Myers to Tampa, the farm workers ceased to be invisible.   In desolate Immokalee, this is their normal condition.

The imperative to become visible – to enter into the public realm – stems from the inability of the Coalition to use the force of its organization to compel growers to dialogue with them.  Part of the reason for this is the special status of agriculture in the United States:  it is exempt from the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.  Growers have no legal obligation to talk with the coalition.  More importantly, they have little interest in doing so.  The reason for this is the profound disjunction between grower and Coalition visions on how to organize farm labor.  As we have argued in this paper, the former are proposing a new regime of labor control in large because market forces are generating unacceptable labor shortages.  The market solution here is obvious:  higher wages and better working conditions.  Growers protest, however, that international competition in their industry from Brazil and Mexico will not permit this.  The alternative, as we have seen in the Smith/Graham proposals, is to administratively tie labor to agricultural employment.  Unfree labor and publicly subsidized housing are the principle proposals for how the growers intend to stand up to international competition.

At the level of public debate, this strategy requires a concerted effort to discredit alternatives such as the Coalition’s call for dialogue with the growers.  No one has worked harder to discredit the Coalition and its allies in the religious community than Luis Rodriguez, governor Bush’s so called “Ag Ambassador.”  Rodriguez is a former grower, a former president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, a former appointee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is currently a paid consultant for the  Florida Farmers and Suppliers Coalition.  Rodriguez became a part of the labor dispute in the immediate aftermath of Jeb Bush’s visit to Immokalee to hear the concerns of the farm workers.  Unlike Bush, Rodriguez has not met with the Coalition.  But this does not keep him from criticizing the organization.  Here are some excerpts from an interview that the editorial board of the Naples Daily News conducted with Rodriguez:

·        “I did not meet with the coalition because the growers do not recognize the coalition as legitimate…they feel that that is a front for a farm worker union and they are not really true representatives.  After doing my research, I feel that they may have a point there.

·        “Some of the players are a little suspicious.  You know, Lucas Benitez didn’t have a history of working in Immokalee or being seen at the 7-Eleven, or driving around town.  You have to remember that the Mexican lobby spends about $3 to $5 million a year on various lobbyists in Washington…so to some extent, the growers here are suspicious of how these folks are being financed, not only by Kellog’s, but by others, including the Mexican lobby. I’m not paranoid, but I’ve seen everything.”

·         [with respect to the coaliton’s religious supporters] “…Like someone told me, ‘I look at them as a bunch of white liberal guys who want to go to heaven on the backs of the farm workers.’ You have to be suspicious of their motives.” [20]

But who can doubt the sincerity of Luis Rodriguez, whom the Naples Daily News characterizes as a farm worker advocate?  Who really speaks for farm workers?  During its 1997-98 hunger strike the Coalition collected the signatures of 2,000 of the 2,500 tomato pickers living in Immokalee.  Rodriguez has apparently remained unimpressed.  Responding the Coalition’s recent trip to Tallahassee to lobby the governor on the behalf of farm workers, he comments:  “I don't believe that Greg Asbed represents the farm workers any more than I represent the king of Spain on international matters in Washington, D.C.”[21]  In the wake of the Coaliton’s recent march, Rodriguez becomes indignant:  the unrelenting criticisms and demonstrations are “a slap in the face.”  Rodriquez has been betrayed by the Coalition:  “I personally feel I’ve stuck my neck out to help the governor and to help them…the wage issue – that took squeezing my friends, using people, every connection I had and we pulled something off but I won’t do it again.”  Again, the Coalition’s motives are suspect:  “The problem is that these people want a piece of the action…their agenda is to organize labor and no matter what they get want more.  The last thing these workers need is a middle man to take a cut in their paycheck.”[22]

These verbal pyrotechnics are simply part of the battle for public legitimacy that is currently being fought between the Coalition on the one side and the growers on the other.  A similar point can be made with respect to the Coalition.  Its public gestures – hunger strikes, marches, etc. – are necessitated by the absence of dialogue between the growers and the CIW.  

As we have argued throughout this paper, the conflict between the growers and the CIW is rooted in the fundamentally different visions each side has with respect to the future of farm labor in Southwest Florida.  It is important to note that this division is further entrenched in the exemptions from labor laws that the agricultural industry enjoys throughout much of the United States.  California is the major exception.  There the state legislature, under Governor Jerry Brown, drafted legislation that extended the right to organize to farm workers. For the rest of the country, including Florida, the exclusion of farm workers from the National Labor Relations Act make it possible for the growers to dispense with dialogue.  As columnist Bill Maxwell suggests, Florida could adopt laws similar to California.[23]  Such legislation would extend to farm workers the rights enjoyed by all other workers.  For this to occur, however, the public would have to view farm workers and farm work in a different light – they would have to be seen as being like everyone else.  This is the key to understanding our notion of the moral economy of farm work.  It means recognizing the essential equality between them and us.  The Coalition’s eruption into the public sphere is meant to remind us of this.

[1] For discussion, see David Griffith and Ed Kissam’s discussion of farm workers in Immokalee in Working Poor (Temple University Press, 1995), p. 29-70.

[2] Perhaps the key objection is over whether the CIW represents farm workers, or is merely pursuing its own interests in the name of the farm workers.  For further discussion, see below.

[3] See for example the National Clearinghouse on Guestworker Legislation (, a website put together by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

[4] Examples include the Bracero program (1942-64), which recruited Mexican workers and undermined wages for domestic agricultural workers.  The successor to the Bracero program is H-2, where growers may recruit foreign workers when the Department of Labor finds that there are labor shortages for farm workers.  Currently, growers make little use of H-2 because its cumbersome bureaucratic procedures make the rapid recruitment of labor at crucial points in the harvest difficult.

[5] New York Times, March 9th, 2000 (“I.N.S. is Looking the Other Way As Illegal Immigrants Fill Jobs,” Louis Uchitelle, p. A-1 and C-14).

[6] Kates is cites in the Naples Daily News, March 14th. 1999 (“Shortage of Workers:  Where has all of the labor gone?” by Victor Epstein).

[7] See “The Green Card Solution,” T. Alexander Alienikoff, The American Prospect, volume 11, number 3, Dec. 20, 1999 (

[8] Taylor is quoted in the Naples Daily News, January 31st, 1999 (“Should Growers be Landlords,” by Gina Edwards).

[9] The raise came at the urge of then governor elect Jeb Bush, who visited with the CIW to hear their concerns in the fall of 1998.  Bush’s unofficial aid for agriculture, J.Luis Rodriguez, then brokered the increase in the piece rate.

[10] Taylor is quoted in the Naples Daily News, Sunday, January 24th, 1999 (“Good Housing = Good Business,” by Dan Wagner).

[11] The information in this paragraph is drawn from the Naples Daily News, Sunday, January 31st, 1999 (“Migrant housing:  Should growers be landlords,” by Gina Edwards).

[12] Scala is quoted in the Fort Myers New-Press, December 21st, 1999 (“Legislation to legalize laborers gets mixed reaction,” by Laura Ruane).

[13] Roka is quoted in the Naples Daily News, February 27th, 2000 (“Immokalee farmworker supporters continue march to Orlando,” Rebecca Wakefield)

[14] Workers may feel deeply conflicted about their preferences.  They might like to strike, but they lack the resources to do so.  In this sense, they are unlike higher paid workers who can more readily afford to strike – such as, most recently, engineers at Boeing.  Their individual rationality therefore dictates that they should work.  Additional resources would change their preferences.

[15] In part, this is because of the way in which the labor market for farm workers has been politically structured.  During the 1930s, farm workers were excluded from the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and today they continue to be excluded from federal protections for labor organizing.  Legislation regulating growers and contractors on wage records, housing and transportation has been passed by Congress, but the legislation is weakly enforced by the Department of Labor, which lacks the personnel or the resources to respond to farm workers’ needs.   The exemption from the NLRA and the weak enforce of the existing labor protections reflect the political power of growers.

[16] For discussion of this march, see the coalition’s webpage (

[17] This legend of this apparition of the Virgin emerged in 16th century Mexico in the wake of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire.  The significance of this story is that it affirms the dignity and worth of an oppressed people.

[18] Coalition of Immokalee Workers press release, February 19th, 2000 (

[19] Home from Nowhere (Simon and Schuster, 1996), p. 36.

[20] The quotes come from the Naples Daily News, January 17th, 1999 (“Ag Ambassador:  Bush aid Rodriguez seeks answers to farm wages, housing”).

[21] Naples Daily News, Dec 21st, 1999.

[22] Naples Daily News, February 27th, 1999 (“Immokalee farmworker supporters continue march to Oralndo,” by Rebecca Wakefield).  The very title of this article, incidentally, suggests that the march was undertaken by supporters of the farmworkers, not the farmworkers themselves.  This gives a false impression of the march.

[23] See the Naples Daily News, February 21st, 1999 (Bill Maxwell:  Bush, Legislature must act to protect, help farmworkers,” by Bill Maxwell).