Happy Labor Day, Immokalee Workers…

They earned it, the old-fashioned way. Holly Burkhalter, in the Washington Post:

Since 1997, the Justice Department has prosecuted seven cases of slavery in the Florida agricultural industry — four involving tomato harvesters — freeing more than 1,000 men and women. The stories are a catalogue of horrors: abductions, pistol whippings, confinement at gunpoint, debt bondage and starvation wages.

Thankfully, those enslaved workers may be among the last found in Florida’s tomato fields. Today, virtually all Florida tomato growers have joined the Fair Food Program, which includes a code of conduct outlawing debt bondage and requiring humane conditions of labor and a more livable wage. Shade stations, toilets and drinking water are appearing in the fields, and educators are spreading word about the code to the harvesters.

This miracle didn’t come about overnight. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization of migrant workers based in Immokalee, Fla., has strived for 19 years to upgrade working conditions and eradicate slavery in the state’s tomato industry. Pressure on growers, whose profit margins have shrunk over that period, was only marginally successful; growers feared that pay increases raising the price of tomatoes would drive buyers to Mexico or other places for cheaper produce. But when the coalition changed tactics and demanded that tomato buyers join the Fair Food Program, reforms came thick and fast. Profitable and image-conscious retailers, pressed by consumers and civil society groups, saw the market and publicity benefits of ethical buying practices.

Over the past seven years, the food service industry and fast food restaurants have come on board, promising to purchase tomatoes only from growers who agree to comply with the code of conduct. What’s more, the buyers pledged to pay a penny-a-pound premium for every box of tomatoes they purchased from participating growers, who pass on the increase to their workers…

And a reminder from commentor JGabriel:

As I seem to do every May Day and Labor Day, I will remind everyone that:

Haymarket Square : USA :: Tiananmen Square : China

Each year on May Day, the rest of the world celebrates labor by commemorating the deaths of workers in the Haymarket Massacre, a peaceful 1886 pro-labor rally that was bombed.

And each year on Labor Day, we in the US celebrate Labor by forgetting Haymarket Square, as was intended. When Labor Day was instituted, in the wake of the 1894 Pullman Strike , our corporate leeches leaders didn’t want us using the day to remember the Haymarket Massacre or to communicate with fellow workers in the rest of the world. So the first Monday in September was set aside for Labor Day, rather than the May Day the rest of the world celebrates.

And it worked. Like the Chinese who have forgotten or never learned of the Tiananmen Massacre, few of us in America remember the Haymarket Massacre. In a day set aside to remember labor, we shop.

So. When you’re celebrating Labor Day today, piss off the spirits and magnates of capitalism: Remember Haymarket Square. Teach your children.

71 replies
  1. 1
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Eric Cantor sent out a tweet saying on Labor Day, we should all be thankful for our entrepreneurs and job creators. The sad thing is even most union members these days wouldn’t notice the contradiction.

  2. 2
    Schlemizel says:

    My kids know those women dies at Triangle because the exit doors were locked to prevent workers from taking breaks. That the mine owners used the National Guard to machine gun workers and their families at Ludlow. That Chrysler imported Black workers from the South to serve as strike breakers setting off race riots from which Detroit still has not recovered.

    When my dad was on strike against 3M my mom got a call while he was on the picket line. It was a woman’s voice suggesting dad was with her & not picketing. Turned out the bosses noted who was on the line and had their secretaries call trying to cause problems at home.

    From murder to race violence to abuse of more mundane kinds management has never stopped trying to crush workers and its not because they want to take care of their workers.

  3. 3
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill . . .

    Speaking of which, how’s the organizing going?

    And how is the lady doing? [Zimman?]

    And the union guy turned candidate?

  4. 4
    scav says:

    @Schlemizel: So those secretaries symbolically whored themselves for capital. Go figure: they and their bosses probably congratulated themselves as being good, honorable and honest people and infinitely better than the scum outside the gates.

  5. 5
    Linda Featheringill says:

    19 years is a long time to fix something that should have taken only about 19 minutes. Geez!

    I certainly don’t have that much patience.

  6. 6
    artem1s says:

    There is power in a factory, power in the land
    Power in the hands of a worker
    But it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand
    There is power in a Union

    Now the lessons of the past were all learned with workers’ blood
    The mistakes of the bosses we must pay for
    From the cities and the farmlands to trenches full of mud
    War has always been the bosses’ way, sir

    The Union forever defending our rights
    Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
    With our brothers and our sisters from many far off lands
    There is power in a Union

    Now I long for the morning that they realise
    Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
    But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
    When the bosses send their lackies out to cheat us?

    Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
    Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
    What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child
    There is power in a Union

    The Union forever defending our rights
    Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
    With our brothers and our sisters together we will stand
    There is power in a Union.


  7. 7
    tanman says:

    I wonder if Eric Cantor tweets out on Mother’s Day that we should be thankful for all of those male inseminators and egg fertilizers, without whom those women couldn’t become mothers.

  8. 8
    CW in LA says:

    @tanman: @tanman: Sounds like something he’d do.

  9. 9
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    Just last month, miners were told to attend a Romney pep rally or else, and weren’t even paid, but most likely these people will for vote for Romney and the Republicans, willing to walk into the mine with whips used onto their backs, because their “alternative” will be a supposed soshalizum, with being gay married under Sharia Law. It is going to be much worse for workers.

  10. 10
    JPL says:

    @tanman: you win…

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    Just last month, miners were told to attend a Romney pep rally or else, and weren’t even paid, but most likely these people will for vote for Romney and the Republicans, willing to walk into the mine with whips used onto their backs, because their “alternative” will be a supposed soshalizum, with being gay married under Sharia Law. It is going to be much worse for workers.


    When people are willing to shoot themselves in the foot, then the kneecaps, then the balls, all in the hopes that the bullet will go through them and hit the Mexicans downstairs in the next room, they probably shouldn’t be surprised if they end up bleeding to death and there are no neighbors around to come help them.

  12. 12
    piratedan says:

    …. I was with the Wobblies when it meant something…..

  13. 13
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: they’ll also vote to protect the mine owner because they Obama wants to shut the mine down, while a lot of enviromentalists think Obama is in the pocket of coal/energy. I wish shutting down the mines were politically and economically possible; I suspect Obama does too.

    There was a documentary film maker on Maher’s show a couple weeks ago, and I’m pretty sure he said alternative and renewable energy now has more jobs than the coal industry. Anybody see that, or know those statistics better than my vague recollection of some thing some guy said?

  14. 14
    Mark S. says:

    Here’s some advice to all you capitalists: When you have people who volunteer to come in on Labor Day, try not acting like a bunch of douchebags and ride their asses the whole fucking day. God I hated my fucking job today.

  15. 15

    There was a talking head on the MHP show when she had her epic meltdown of “the risk is being poor in America” (which I should add was absolutely righteous and should be required to be screened in every School in the US today, and she put it in such simple terms, who put out the most basic of all truths, no business in America is successful unless you have people with money in their pockets willing to buy things, or use services, or go to dinner, the ENTIRE American economy lies on people with money in their pockets being able to spend it, if the majority of people in America have no money (other than that spent on rent, utilities, food, etc) then the economy will NEVER recover. This is what the rich bastards don’t get.

  16. 16
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mark S.:

    I actually try not to shop on holidays if I can possibly avoid it because I feel bad that people are missing their day off just so I can buy shoes. If I do, I try to be extra nice and (if customary) tip well to make up for it.

  17. 17
    Chris says:


    I’m not sure if they “don’t get it” or if they consider it a feature rather than a bug. I’ve said this before, but elites live very well in third world countries; their role in society may not be efficient or profitable but they really don’t care. They’d rather live in a hovel where they get to be the masters, than a modern middle-class society where their status doesn’t mean as much.

  18. 18
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: and what a shock, that mine is owned by Bob Murray:

    Blomquist’s correspondents said they are routinely pressured to donate to Republican causes and that the company keeps track of who gives and who doesn’t. Workers sometimes have their pay envelopes stuffed with political literature, the employee’s wife said.. […]
    [UPDATED at 6:34 p.m.: Murray Energy gained attention during the August 2007 collapse of a mine it co-owned in Utah, Crandall Canyon Mine, during which six miners were killed and three other men perished in the rescue effort. The media at the time revealed that Murray Energy had a far worse safety record at some of its mines than other coal companies of similar size. Robert Murray blamed the collapse on an earthquake, a theory scientists later discredited.
    Robert Murray has also spoken out against further regulation of the coal and power industry and called climate change “elitists’ ill-conceived ‘global goofiness’ ” campaign.
    Coal jobs have risen in Ohio during most of Obama’s tenure, but mines all over mid-Atlantic have been laying off people this year, said Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mineworkers of America, which endorsed Obama in 2008 and has so far not endorsed a 2012 presidential candidate. Smith said although many coal companies talk to employees from time to time about developments in the industry, Murray Energy stood apart.
    “He holds frequent meetings with employees letting folks know his views with respect to politics and trashing Obama and trashing us for supporting Obama in ’08,” Smith said of Robert Murray. “They’re weekly, maybe biweekly. So, in tone and amount of activism, he is unique.”]

  19. 19
    kay says:

    GREAT local TV coverage of the Obama / Brown UAW Labor Day event in Toledo. Very positive.

    He spent an hour and a half in a local diner,surprise visit, and all the after-interviews with patrons were “down to earth”, etc.

    They have to be smiling watching that in Chicago.

  20. 20
    patrick II says:


    They get it, but don’t care. It’s not how rich you are in absolute terms that counts — it’s how much more you have than the other guy. Making sure others have less is just as good as you having more.

  21. 21

    Ha Ha our John Cole is learning

    I told @johngcole my plan for tonight was to hang out with black ladies. He says, “I wanna hang out with black ladies too! #ABLC #ABLCWG2012

  22. 22
    Baud says:


    Those local reporters will never make it into the Village that way.

  23. 23

    @patrick II:

    But they do not understand that they can’t be rich unless people buy stuff, whether it be diet coke or gas, unless the people in the US are buying stuff then the rich do not get richer, I do not understand how they cannot see that.

  24. 24
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: It drives me nuts. Clinton balanced the budget with (among other things) modest increases in the top marginal tax rates. Trickle down tax cuts failed in the Bush years. Austerity is failing all over Europe. Why is it so fucking hard for people to look at the fucking facts and evidence?

  25. 25
    kay says:


    They interviewed small business owner who FINALLY said if auto workers make better wages SHE does better, too. God. I feel like I’ve been waiting for someone to say that on TV for 4 years.

    They also interviewed a woman in the diner who had a conversation with Obama about the Cubs and she described him as “normal” which made me laugh, given Governor Romney:)

  26. 26
    SammyV says:

    Thanks for posting this. I had never heard that about Labor Day.

  27. 27
    JGabriel says:

    @Anne Laurie: Whoa, thanks for front-paging my comment. That was unexpectedly encouraging.


  28. 28
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    When the rest of the world celebrates the workers who were massacred at Haymarket, we celebrate those who did the massacring.

  29. 29
    Jim C says:

    This is almost totally unrelated to the subject at hand, but Holly Burkhalter’s mother was my English teacher in Jr. High, also named Holly Burkhalter.

    The first words she said to us were, “Welcome to the salt mines,” ans she was one of the best teachers I had in that school system.

  30. 30
    Roger Moore says:

    That depends on how you measure wealth. Yes, they’ll have fewer dollars and be able to buy fewer things if half of America is starving, but those starving Americans will be a great source of cheap servants and lackeys. If your idea of wealth is to control and even own people- and look at the story above to see that there are still those who want to own their fellows- then an impoverished nation may be better for you than a prosperous one.

  31. 31
    Mike in NC says:

    In honor of Labor Day, no doubt Lord & Lady Rmoney gave all 65 of their servants an extra 15 minutes at lunch!

  32. 32
    Suffern Ace says:

    @kay: i suppose that as he finished his coffee, they brought him pie, which he turned down as it wasn’t store bought. He’s kind of the anti-Romney that way.

  33. 33
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: @Mr Stagger Lee:

    Heh. Just ask the Molly Maguires….

  34. 34
    Chris says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Exactly. Patrick put it more succinctly and Roger Moore put it more clearly. Better to reign in hell… sort of thing.

  35. 35
    JGabriel says:

    Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Why is it so fucking hard for people to look at the fucking facts and evidence?

    Upton Sinclair:

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!


  36. 36
    Ben Franklin says:


    Better to reign in hell

    I’d rather surf in Heaven…

  37. 37
    Cap'n Magic says:

    Republican are asking “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”?

    The dems should answer with this

    In Jan 2001 unemployment rate was 4.2
    In Jan 2009 unemployment rate was 7.6

  38. 38
    Chris says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:


    As if we didn’t have enough monuments to law and order already. We’re pretty much at the point as a society where the only two jobs that are considered noble, worthy, laudable, etc are businessmen and people in uniform.

  39. 39
    kay says:

    @Suffern Ace:

    Well, they knew he was going to have breakfast with three autoworkers, but they didn’t know where. So the bomb-sniffing dogs arrive, they wand everyone in the place, and then he shows up.
    Big news in a smaller city like Toledo. It was basically a 10 minute free ad.
    The advantages of the incumbent will start to play into this now. The President is just a bigger deal than the nominee. Always.

  40. 40
    Jennifer says:

    I posted my own rant for Labor Day over at my joint, which isn’t half bad if I say so myself. It covers some of the same themes that are being raised here in comments. Feel free to mosey on over and give it a read, and a comment if you like.

  41. 41
    Ben Franklin says:

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

    A truly bookmarkable quote

  42. 42
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Cap’n Magic: The Obama team seems to know what they’re doing, so I’ll try not to play amateur David Plouffe, but Martin Bashir had a great mashup of news clips from The Real World of September 2008– crashing stock market, banks collapsing, the whole fucking world in a tail spin– some great content for one of those ‘web ads’ that have replaced faxed talking points.

    Of course, I’m sure CNN, Bob Schieffer and Tom Brokaw would say talking about the actual state of the economy four years ago would be uncivil and unfair.

  43. 43
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    My local NPR station featured that song this morning (Paul Robeson!) on their classical music program. Actually an excellent “workers’ concert” including the “On the Waterfront” suite (Bernstein), and Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Also, a wonderful symphony by Haydn which has the nickname “Farewell Symphony.” in the last movement, the musicians depart one by one, blowing out the candles on their music stands and leaving the stage. At the end there are only two violinists left, and hardly any light. Haydn wrote it to demonstrate to his patron, Prince Esterházy, that his orchestra needed a vacation break. An early, witty and artistic form of labor negotiations!! And it worked :-)

  44. 44
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Need to look up the Haymarket Square story. Never heard of it. But my excuse it that I was raised in Canada. Remember being at University in Toronto when Tiananmen Square happened. Time sure flies by.

  45. 45
    JGabriel says:

    Cap’n Magic:

    Republican are asking “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”?
    The dems should answer with this
    In Jan 2001 unemployment rate was 4.2
    In Jan 2009 unemployment rate was 7.6

    That doesn’t help if the UE rate is higher today* than 1/2009, because you have to explain that UE didn’t peak until late 2009, while we were still braking and skidding from the largest economic disaster since The Great Depression

    And when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

    (*) 8.3% as of August 3rd, 2012, the most recently available UE report. A new one should be coming out later this week.


  46. 46
    rikyrah says:


    thanks for the reports from Toledo. love the on the ground reports, and that the local media does a far better job reporting the issues.

  47. 47
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @JGabriel: that’s the Villagers, but I’m thinking of all the middle class people who skim the headlines and watch local news or maybe read Friedman or watch MTP and think they’re well informed who are going to vote for Romney because he “understands the economy”, but will tell pollsters they oppose tax cuts for the rich and voucherization. What do they think Romney has? a secret plan no one else can figure out? A magic economy wand?

  48. 48
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    If you (and enough others) don’t shop, they will probably be cut and won’t make even the basic wage, let alone if they’re lucky time-and-a-half and decent tips.

  49. 49
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    LOL excellent!!

  50. 50
    Redshift says:

    My first visit to Chicago, we went to the Haymarket memorial. In New York, we visited the Triangle building. I grew up with a comfortable suburban existence, and the only visible union members were fat lazy guys who were sitcom jokes, but Ms. Redshift’s grandparents were coal miners, so I learned.

  51. 51

    Proud to say the Presbyterian Church USA was instrumental in making this happen. The church’s social justice program has worked for years to raise awareness and support the CIW activists. I spearheaded our congregation’s letter writing campaign to Burger King’s CEO — BK was the last huge fast food industry holdout that wouldn’t sign on to CIW’s fair food program. And churches housed and fed activists who traveled around the country to protest.

    Now we’re fighting Publix and Chipotle. Keep up the pressure, people.

  52. 52

    My comment is awaiting moderation. I don’t know why.

  53. 53
    JGabriel says:

    Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    What do they think Romney has? a secret plan no one else can figure out? A magic economy wand?

    Beautiful alabaster skin.


  54. 54
    Chris says:


    Your rants are always worth reading. Thanks for catching the thing from that entitled Australian bitch, by the way. Yet another person who made her money the old-fashioned way by inheriting it.

  55. 55
    AHH onna Droid says:

    Im still boycotting Publix, Anne Laurie, and you should too.

    Taco Bell pays into the CIW fund. Taco fucking Bell. Fuck you, Publix.

    Oh, and they’re open today, closed on Christian holidays. Classy.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:


    Yes, if I choose not to shop on Labor Day, or Memorial Day, or Christmas Day, the whole store will get shut down and all the employees fired. They certainly wouldn’t, you know, decide to just close the store for that one day and let the employees have the day off since people like me will still be shopping there the other 350+ days of the year that are not national holidays.

    C’mon, you’re smarter than that.

  57. 57
    AHH onna Droid says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: no, just no. This is such a bullshit argument. The labor pool will go where the money is and I do reserve the right to spend money on my needs according to my values.

    Yes, we can punish the oligarchs without punishing workers, because workers are not serfs and can change employers. More harm is done to workers by changes in technology. (Of course before the unions were destroyed they insisted on retraining and job placement, what a shocking concept.)

    Here in rural Florida the same core of a several dozen works kitchens, tables, and bars, but their lives and mine are improved when we meet at the table of the living wage, local source, real food local bistro instead of meeting below the lentil of rapacious, NRA, wealth extracting, worker cheating, sauce in a box chain restaurant.

  58. 58
    kay says:


    During the SB5 fight I went to a Teamsters rally in Toledo and it was like 120 degrees in the hall, just HOT, literally and emotionally, and there was this 30ish white guy standing on his chair who would periodically yell “FUCK the Tea Party!” and they would all cheer.
    So I’m paranoid and I’m scanning the room for TV people because I’m thinking “oh, FOX is going to LOVE this, we’ll be hearing “union thugs!” on Morning Joe for DAYS with this clip”, but, luckily, only local print reporters covered it and they left out the specific language of the periodic outbursts from the overzealous union member.
    They wrote something like “loudly opposed the Tea Party”,

  59. 59
    Kathleen says:

    @Mnemosyne: Costco closes on Labor Day.

  60. 60
    Mnemosyne says:


    It’s not a coincidence that the founder of Costco will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention, not the Republican one.

  61. 61
    kay says:


    I just read the Blade report. That’s the Toledo paper.
    7 Romney supporters showed up to protest .
    That’s SEVEN, as in 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.
    There are more that on the GOP Central Committee in that county.

  62. 62

    The Immokalee workers were the subject of a Southeastern Yearly Meeting work group of young Quakers this past week here in the Miami area. A group of about ten kids, ranging in age from 12 to 15 and from meetings all over the state, went to Immokalee and saw the conditions the workers were enduring. We had a meeting with the kids yesterday before our First Day Meeting for Worship yesterday, and the kids wrote a letter to Publix, the largest supermarket chain in the state. Publix has yet to support paying the workers more. The letter was pretty powerful but of course politely written, and all the members and attenders of the Miami Friends Meeting who were in attendance co-signed it.

  63. 63
    JoyfulA says:

    @AHH onna Droid: Our church boycotted Taco Bell (among others) for a long time. When Taco Bell signed on, the boycott was over, and I went to Taco Bell and told everyone why I was having lunch there.

  64. 64
    Nutella says:

    I have found that people from other countries are more likely to know about Haymarket Square and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire than Americans.

    We have deliberately left out labor history from American history.

    If you want to catch up, here are some links: link link link

  65. 65
    Peter says:

    @Mnemosyne: Depending on where they are, they may not mind. At my place of work, we fight to the death over holiday hours because making two an a half times our normal rate is way too good to give up. Even the big family holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, which people usually don’t want to work if they can help it, the hours will almost always go the one guy on staff who doesn’t mind (usually me. My shift’s 3-11 in the PM, and most of my family Christmas celebrations are over by noon, so gimme that money. Also acts as good leverage to get the days off that I REALLY need).

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:


    And yet, if we continue normalizing working on holidays so that it’s just another workday for hourly employees, you’re going to eventually lose that time-and-a-half because, hey, the store’s already open 365 days a year, so now it’s a choice between working on Thanksgiving or being fired without even getting time-and-a-half to ease the sting.

    Sorry, not going along with it.

  67. 67
    Peter says:

    @Mnemosyne: Government mandated, at least where I am. I don’t think anybody is seriously concerned about losing it.

  68. 68
    Peter says:

    If you really want to do your worker a favor, choose instead to boycott the couple of days after a holiday. Those days are always pure hell, as everybody rushes in to catch up on the shopping and chores they didn’t do over the holiday, and you don’t get paid any extra for it.

  69. 69
    Steeplejack says:


    I don’t think anybody is seriously concerned about losing it.

    Because it’s government-mandated.

  70. 70
    Ruckus says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    It’s not that hard. They just don’t want to. They get spoon fed conservative crap that tells them how to get rich. And why they aren’t getting rich. That story is that to get rich you only have to be richer than others and that others are trying to take “it” away from them. If they end the others taking their money away then they will be rich. And almost everyone likes to be richer rather than poorer. Notice that it is always, always someone elses fault. It’s never the conservative bullshit, it’s always someone/something else. Which by the way is the actual conservative bullshit.

  71. 71
    Mnemosyne says:


    I used to shop on the small holidays like Labor Day, until the big box retailers like Best Buy decided that they would start staying open on Christmas Day.

    That was when I realized what their eventual aim was. Don’t fool yourself — employers are lobbying your state right now to not have to give you time-and-a-half for a holiday because, hey, retailers are open on that holiday, so obviously it should be treated as a normal business day.

    You might be able to keep Thanksgiving and Christmas as days with extra pay because it would be bad PR otherwise, but you’ll probably be kissing extra pay on all of the other holidays goodbye.

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