They offer very detailed and disturbing descriptions of life on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the slums of Camden, New Jersey, and the “surface mining” zones surrounding Welch, West Virginia, as well as some places in Immokalee, Florida, that are literally like slave camps. One chapter of the book caught my eye, “Days of Slavery. ” It mainly takes place in Immokalee Florida, a center of immigrant agricultural laborers, mostly Latino. The immigrants are housed in terrible conditions, which makes it very hard for them to work.
Additionally to the terrible conditions that they are forced to work in, they are also paid unreasonably low wages for the amount of time they are working. Another thing that is affecting the people who work in the factories are serious problems with breathing. They have this problem because of pesticide poisoning and other chemicals that they are being exposed to while working. One chemical that is mentioned is Methyl Bromide. It is also not uncommon for these workers to be held in literal slavery, have their paychecks stolen, and be subjected to physical abuse if they get out of line.
The legal system in Florida appears willing to prosecute cases of slavery, but the immigrants are very afraid to come forward for obvious reasons. They are afraid they will be fired and more than likely the cases will not be judged in their favor. This is because these companies are huge, and are able to pay people off to continue making the workers work under unreasonable conditions. O’Neill 2 Hedges interviews activists from the Coalition of Imoakalee Workers, a very strong and militant organization. He describes their struggle to secure a minimum level of decent conditions for the workers.
The chapter includes the case of Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez, who where sentenced in 1997 to fifteen years in prison on charges of slavery, extortion, and firearm possession. The duo oversaw a modern slavery operation of four hundred men and women who harvested fields in Florida and South Carolina. The book highlights the harsh conditions for the laborers in this operation. The author wrote: The workers, mostly indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans, were forced to work ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week, for as little as $20 dollars a week, all under the supervision of armed guards.
Those who attempted to escape were beaten, pistol-whipped, and at times shot. The crew leaders charged the workers exorbitant prices for food. Female workers, according to one victim, were routinely raped. The coalition workers were told by Flores that if their experiences of working in the factory were talked about, he would cut their tongues out. (Hedges 158) The main questions of the people in the community of Immokalee were probably, “Who is going to take a stand for us immigrants? Who is going to be our leader that we will follow so we can be treated like normal human-beings? Their questions were not being answered until a man by the name of Lucas Benitez came along. Benitez was thirty-six and had two children . A group was started by Bentiez as well as people who “found the courage to stand up to abuse, breaking the cycle of fear that keeps the system in place. ” Benitez started by becoming an organizer. He and his group would meet at the local Catholic church at night to help those who were being treated unfairly. Things were turning around for the immigrants.
They were protesting and trying to do whatever they could to defeat the huge companies who were making them work many hours for such little pay. As they began to protest and strike, the employers gave them what they wanted. The workers of Imoakalee, Florida, got O’Neill 3 a pay raise, and were no longer held in literal slavery. Other then the few changes that were mentioned above, Imoakalee Florida, has not significantly changed since the mid 1950’s. Today, Imoakalee, Florida, is still an area where a majority of America’s crops and produce are grown.
Many immigrants still live in Imoakalee, Florida. To this day, unfortunately corruption is still going on in Imoakalee. Huge factories and companies are forcing workers to work very hard, and they are also causing damage to the environment. They are causing damage to the environment because of the smoke stacks that are required by the different factories. (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) O’Neill 4 Works Cited Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). N. p. , n. d. Web. 7 Feb. 2013. . Hedges, Chris, and Joe Sacco. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. New York: Nation Books, 2012. Print.