The Farmworker Association of Florida has a 30 year history of empowering farmworkers in Florida to become more informed and to advocate for themselves and their communities that they might have better living and working conditions for the hard work that they do. The people whose back-breaking work is necessary for us all to have food to eat, often go hungry themselves. FWAF works to change the dynamics that keeps farmworkers powerless and subjected to an industrial agricultural system that feeds on a cheap, exploitable labor force. Fighting for the human rights, civil liberties, justice in the workplace, environmental justice regarding exposure to pesticides, the organization has lead the way in the state, and has made an impact nationally in the strugle for the rights of farmworkers. Communities in Florida that have been touched by the work of the FWAF are the better for it. It is truly a grassroots organization - of, by and for farmworkers.
People who do the vitally important work of planting and picking our food should have the best of pay and working conditions. Instead, they suffer from poverty wages and multiple health issues due to pesticide exposure, physical over-exertion, cruel and exploitative management, etc. Several years ago, I became aware of the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). It would be difficult to find an organization with a more dedicated and committed staff and leadership than FWAF. They work tirelessly to improve the conditions of the people who make it possible for the rest of us to live. Anyone looking for a worthy organiztion to donate money and/or time to should definitely give to FWAF. You can be assured it will go to good use! Also, I highly recommend that everyone become more familiar with the people who make it possible for us to sustain ourselves with the vitamins and minerals in the fruits and vegetables we consume. I have learned a lot by attending workshops, including the tour of Lake Apopka conducted by FWAF, and I urge others to do the same.
I've been working with FWAF for several years specifically on the lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt project and I must say the experience has far exceeded my expectaions. Not only did I have the opportunity to work with an inspiring group of former farmworkers and help them create a memorial quilt to those who worked on the muck, but I got to see the exhibited quilts impact many people, young and old from different backgrounds. These viewers of the quilts, whether members of the farmworking community, students, environmental justice activists, or just folks seeing the quilts and for the first time becoming aware of farmworkers' lives, all walked away from the quilts with a greater knowlege and empathy towards the lives and challenges of the life of a farmworker. We set our goals high and, with the masterful help of Jeannie Economos, found ourselves and the quilts in Tallahassee in front of a special Senate Agriculture Committee where Jeannie and a former farmworker (and the main quiltmaker) presented a case for better health services for the Lake Apopka former farmworkers who suffered years of exposure to pesticides.
For the past 25 years, I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with the Farmworker Association of Florida on a wide range of projects. Throughout this time, the FWAF has steadfastly remained true to its original mission: emplowering farmworkers to be able to take charge of their lieves and change the substandard conditions that have plagued the farm labor market for decades. The FWAF leadership and staff is comprised overwhelmingly of farmworkers, most of whom have developed leadership skills through work with the Association. It is farmworkers who set the agenda for the FWAF and who have fueled its many successes over the years. The FWAF has been the striongest voice in Florida addressing many of the chronic ills that beset farmworkers: pesticide exposure, dilapidated housing, low wages, abusive crew chiefs, sexual harassment, abuse of H-2A guestworkers, immigration and exclusion from labor protection laws (such as overtime coverage under federal law, the National Labor Relations Act and worker's compensation laws in over half the states). While other farmworker advcacy groups have come and gone over the past 30 years, the FWAF alone has been an unwavering voice for farmworkers in Florida.