Gerardo Reyes Chávez of Coalition of Immokalee Workers - Biography

Immokalee, FL

August 2012

Gerardo Reyes Chávez has worked in the fields since age 11, first as a peasant farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico, and then in the fields of Florida picking oranges, tomatoes, and watermelons. He joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a Florida-based human rights organization, shortly after his arrival in the United States in 2000, when his fellow farm worker roommates, who had previously escaped a violent slavery operation hidden in the swamp south of Immokalee, Florida, invited him to come to the CIW’s Wednesday evening community meetings.

Since then, Reyes has been a key leader of the CIW, focusing his work on the community level, mobilizing the Immokalee community around national actions for the Campaign for Fair Food. An ardent activist, Reyes raises awareness in support of the campaign through presentations, workshops, and speeches. He was the featured presenter on corporate social responsibility at the TEDx Fruitvale in 2011, a panelist on the modern food industry at the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, a guest lecturer on food justice for the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and was a panelist at Google’s TriBeCa Film Festival workshop on labor trafficking.

Reyes has helped investigate several modern-day slavery operations, including going undercover to work on tomato farms and interviewing workers who have escaped from brutal operations. Today, as a key member of the CIW’s negotiating team in talks with retail food and tomato industry leaders, he has been instrumental in forging many of the CIW’s Fair Food agreements. He also helps to run Radio Conciencia, the low-power community radio station through which the CIW creates a space to share the diversity of cultures, languages, and experiences that make up Immokalee.