|Catholic Campaign For Human Development Honors Florida's Coalition Of Immokalee Workers|
WASHINGTON–The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) recently awarded its Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) for being an example of empowerment in action. The award is presented annually by CCHD to a group or individual who best exemplifies a commitment to the development of people and the elimination of poverty in America. Recipients of this award have made significant contributions to human development and offered heroic responses to the needs of the economically disadvantaged.
Founded in 1993 and a CCHD grant recipient for the past eight years, the CIW serves the largely rural town of Immokalee, Florida. This year's award was presented on February 24, at a ceremony and dinner held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Coalition is a community-based worker organization that comprises more than 3,300 members. The majority of its members are Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants from rural areas working in low-wage jobs throughout South Florida. The organization conducts workshops, researches and organizes on issues confronting its members and the farm worker community.
The CIW has taken the lead in confronting major corporations about improving conditions in the fields for farm workers, exposing and eliminating modern slavery, and forcing companies to improve wage and working conditions for exploited employees.
Between 2002 and 2004, CIW concentrated its efforts on Taco Bell, conducting the first ever boycott by farm workers of a major fast food chain. In March 2005, under growing pressure from students, churches, and communities throughout the country, Taco Bell agreed to meet all of CIW's demands to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers. This campaign had the strong endorsement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. The USCCB continues to work closely with the Florida Catholic Conference of Bishops to seek justice for farm workers. In 2007, YUM Brands, Taco Bell's parent company, extended their agreement to all their brands. In another significant victory, the Coalition achieved similar agreements with other major fast-food companies, including McDonalds.
In presenting this year's award, CCHD Director Ralph McCloud said, "We're proud to present this year' s award to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and we are grateful for the work they do on behalf of those who toil mostly unnoticed in the fields. They imitate the life of Jesus in their concern for the poor and exploited. Lives of countless farm workers have been greatly improved because of their unselfish efforts. It would be impossible to imagine just how many lives have been saved and family conditions improved because they dared to organize and demand fair and just treatment, and basic human rights."
Accepting the award for the Coalition was Gerardo Reyes-Chavez. "On behalf of all the members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers we are honored to receive this recognition from CCHD, who has supported us since the beginning of our struggle for fair wages, respect, and an end to slavery in the fields of Florida," he said.
"We would also like to thank Bishop Nevins and Bishop Dewane of the Diocese of Venice for their steadfast commitment to farm worker justice. Together, working with Catholics across the country, we've been able to reach historic agreements with Taco Bell, YUM Brands, and McDonald's, and yet there is still much work to be done. We must continue to work together until the day comes when all farm workers are treated with the justice and dignity that they deserve," he added.
CCHD is the largest private funder of self-help programs for poor people in the United States. The USCCB established CCHD in 1970 to support self-help efforts of low-income people, address the root causes of poverty and bring to life the Church's social teaching. Since then, CCHD has distributed over $280 million in grants to more than 8,000 projects dedicated to helping people break the cycle of poverty.
More information about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and poverty in America can be found at the CCHD websites www.usccb.org/cchd and www.povertyusa.org.