It started one day in the early '90s, when a white van stopped him in front of the Fruit Stand grocery store in Hastings and asked if he needed work. He did. But as soon as he met Evans he knew he had found trouble. Evans was mean in a way that made Goodman feel suddenly aware of how far out of town they were. There was no phone. Chain link and barbed wired surrounded the property. The crew leaders looked hardened, "like they just come out of prison." The field workers called them henchmen.
One of them gave him a pair of bloodstained work boots.
"He said 'These belong to the last guy who ran. If I catch you trying to get down that road, you're going to answer to me too.' " [read the rest...]
I don't really understand how this story has stayed so far under the radar. According to this article, 1000 migrant farm workers have been freed from slavery -- yes, SLAVERY -- in Florida in the past 13 years.
Did someone forget to tell Florida farmers that slavery's end was one of the outcomes to the Civil War?
The Ronald Evans case was one of the most evil and egregious. From the Coalition of Immokalee Workers:
Ron Evans recruited homeless U.S. citizens from shelters across the Southeast, including New Orleans, Tampa, and Miami, with promises of good jobs and housing. At Palatka, FL and Newton Grove, NC area labor camps, the Evans' deducted rent, food, crack cocaine and alcohol from workers' pay, holding them "perpetually indebted" in what the DOJ called "a form of servitude morally and legally reprehensible." The Palatka labor camp was surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, with a No Trespassing sign. The CIW and a Miami-based homeless outreach organization (Touching Miami with Love) began the investigation and reported the case to federal authorities in 2003. In Florida, Ron Evans worked for grower Frank Johns. Johns was 2004 Chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the powerful lobbying arm of the Florida agricultural industry. As of 2007, he remained the Chairman of the FFVA's Budget and Finance Committee.
The Palm Beach Post has done a remarkable series of reports on the slavery problem in Florida. I highly recommend it.
They slip across the Mexican border at great peril, cross the country in the dark hollows of vans, stay silent as they are "bought" and "sold" in fruit groves and rest stops dotting the American landscape.
A destitute minority in a wealthy, well-fed society, they are packed like prisoners into unfit housing, ferried to work in unsafe vehicles and compelled to labor long hours -- under fake names and numbers -- for substandard wages.
Enslaved by debt from the very moment they arrive, they contribute mightily to Florida's $62 billion agricultural industry, yet they earn little in return.
1,000 slaves freed in 13 years is not a small problem. It's organized crime intended to enrich the wealthy plantation owners of the 21st century by exploiting immigrants and the poor.
"The richest, most powerful people in the state are benefiting from this," says Rob Williams, director of the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, a legal advocacy group in Florida. "They don't want it to change."
No wonder they oppose immigration reform.
Ron Evans is now serving a 30-year federal prison sentence, thankfully. It is at least the beginning of justice for such brutal and inhuman behavior.
Slavery. In 2010. It boggles the mind, and lights a fire of deep anger in me.
For more information, pictures and stories about this, visit http://ciw-online.org/