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Laura Germino

United States of America , Class of 2010

Laura Germino
United States of America

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Working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Laura Germino began fighting against modern-day slavery in the Tomato picking industry.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) was founded in Immokalee, Florida in 1993. The organization began as a truly grassroots organization. Meeting in a church, they discussed community organizing and the working conditions that people experienced in the tomato fields. Wages had been going down for fifteen or so years, and there was no sign it would get better. Throughout the 1990s, the CIW advocated on behalf of these workers. Using methods from hunger strikes to work stoppages they applied pressure on the growers, and in 1998 they succeeded in reversing the low-wage trend. As they began to head towards the millennium, they started to expand their focus. Through their work with the low-income migrant farm communities in Florida they had uncovered something horrifying: slavery.

Laura Germino, a founding member of the CIW, helped to establish the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign. She began investigating cases of forced labor in the Tomato industry in Florida, and also involved the Department of Justice. Several traffickers were prosecuted in the 1990s in high-profile cases brought and managed by the CIW. In fact, the CIW was instrumental in the drafting process of the TVPA of 2000, the federal legislation that comprehensively outlawed modern-day forms of slavery, and established the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. U.S. v. Flores was the first case they brought concerning slavery in 1997. Since then, they have concluded six other prosecutions, with the help of the Department of Justice, and freed over 1000 workers. The CIW also, through their Fair Food Program, attempts to make sure that corporations are conscious of how their Tomatoes are being picked, and that their workers are receiving a fair wage. Since 2011, their “penny a pound” increase has resulted in over ten million dollars which have gone directly into the paychecks of Tomato pickers in Florida.

Ms. Germino has developed curricula and organized trainings for law enforcement and other government personnel. She presented at the OSCE's technical seminar in Vienna on agricultural labor trafficking, and she also presented at the 15th World Congress on Criminology in Barcelona. She co-founded the Freedom Network Training Institute, and continues to help them train various personnel on modern-day slavery issues. She continues to work for the CIW, and to combat modern-day slavery. In 2010, she was given a Trafficking in Persons Report Award in recognition of her efforts. 

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