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COLUMN

Happytown

The week we weathered Gov. Rick Scott's terrible foray into teaching Immokalee kids about owl pellets and farming ... before getting lost in the gay crossfire of a mayoral bitchfest over a benefits ordinance. Floridian pride overload!

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: Dave Plotkins, License: N/A

Dave Plotkins


OK, let’s get to work! Thursday, Nov. 10 was a good day for nearly everybody in the state of Florida, with the exception of a handful of elementary, middle and high school students in a rural South Florida town. Why? Because that day, Gov. Rick Scott didn’t have much time to ruin – sorry, govern – the state. Instead, he devoted his day to teaching children in Immokalee, Fla., about the “composition of barn owl pellets” (owl pellets!) as well as “taxation and fiscal policy.” (There are not yet any confirmed reports of teachers or reporters vomiting in their mouths during the second presentation). Hot for teacher, anyone?

This visit, according to a press statement from his office, was part of his ongoing pledge to work “at least one day each month at jobs that mirror the tasks he performed on his journey from public housing to the Governor’s Mansion.” You know, like when he was “DJ Govvy Gov” on that Carnival Cruise ship? Personally, we can’t wait until he assumes the role of chief executive of a for-profit health care company that defrauds the federal government! But wait, hold up: Rick Scott was a public school teacher? We tried in vain to find the evidence of the governor’s teaching experience – we even issued a question to the governor’s office and received no reply – and mused on what it would be like to visit public schools in a poor town after cutting $1.75 billion from the public school system and pressing for economic policies which, if illustrated, would resemble a giant middle finger toward the poor.

We were even more interested to find, however, that one of Scott’s lessons, given in a U.S. history class at Immokalee Middle School, was about “farming in the American colonies.”A field trip down the street, into the vast tomato fields surrounding Immokalee, would probably have been just as effective a demonstration of the farming methods of yesteryear. Much of Immokalee’s population is comprised of migrant farmworkers from Central and South America who work long hours picking hard green tomatoes by hand. Many leave their homes at 5 a.m. and return at 7 p.m. Their rough working conditions are the stuff of legend, but not stories they are particularly proud of – some of them have been beaten, refused their wages and even locked into shoddy trailers at night, essentially victims of modern-day slavery.

Things in Immokalee are changing, however. Last November, a group called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers – a hybrid of migrant farmworkers and citizen activists – forced a historic agreement with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a trade group that oversees nearly all of the state’s large tomato companies. (See “Harvest of hope,” Dec. 9, 2010). The FTGE agreed that it would pass along an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked, and in addition, would allow a third party to evaluate worker complaints and make sure that CIW’s “Fair Food Code of Conduct” is respected.

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