GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign on Saturday released a powerful new ad featuring the working families of Immokalee, Florida, where workers have been fighting exploitation by the agricultural industry. A five-minute version of the spot will run Thursday nationwide at 8:48 p.m. EST on Univision. It is unprecedented for the Spanish-language network to run an ad this long and it will alter its primetime schedule to accommodate the spot.
“I will always fight,” Udelia Chautla says in Spanish as the ad opens. “As long as I can see my children happy and well, I will continue fighting to provide them with the best. My children are the motor that drives my life.”
Udelia started protesting with the Fair Food campaign in 2010. The campaign asks corporations to pay one cent per pound of tomatoes to provide workers with better pay and benefits.
“There were cases of bosses abusing workers,” Chautla says about working in the fields of southern Florida. “They would not provide workers with water or restrooms. The bosses would get angry because some of the men wouldn’t want to keep working and start hitting them. At night, I would cry sometimes because what you earn isn’t enough. It affected my children because I didn’t have enough to buy food.”
“They don’t understand what we have to live through,” she says of the bosses. “We have families.”
In 2008, Sanders traveled to Immokalee and met with migrant workers who were being ruthlessly exploited. They were being paid starvation wages for backbreaking work and denied basic rights. After the visit, Sanders invited leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to Washington to testify during a Senate committee hearing regarding abusive labor practices. As a result of the tremendous grassroots effort of this coalition, working conditions in Immokalee improved and workers received a wage increase.
“Bernie Sanders took interest in the lives of the workers and wanted to hear their struggles,” Udelia says. “Politicians never came to Immokalee. He didn’t keep silent about what he witnessed here in Immokalee.”
“There are now more rights and worker support,” Udelia says of life in Immokalee after the committee hearings. “We started to see changes in our wages. It really improved our lives. I could buy small things for my children. This changes a person.”
“But how many more Immokalees are there?” Sanders says as the video closes. “How many fields or factories are there? We have to ask ourselves ‘who benefits from this exploitation?’ And to understand that it is not only the Immokalee workers who suffer but every worker in America because that pushes us in a race to the bottom.”
As president, Sanders would fight to end exploitation of migrant workers and work to enact immigration policy that stops the criminalization of communities of color and keeps families together. Sanders’ immigration plan was applauded by The New York Times as “a powerful counterpoint to” the rhetoric of Republican presidential hopefuls.