She arrived in 2000 to pick eggplant and squash in the Immokalee area. She stands side by side with other pickers to effect change. She meets with federal and state officials to discuss abuses in the fields. She holds the hand of women who has been sexually harassed by her crew leader. She kisses her children goodbye at 4 a.m. and wakes them after dark to tell them good night. This is the life of Nely Rodriguez.
Born in a small town in Mexico to a mother who cared for nine children and a father who labored in the field picking beans and corn, Rodriguez has made her life’s work fighting for a fair wage and decent working conditions for farmworkers in Florida. She is committed to “assuring there’s respect in the fields for farm works and that there is a better quality of life not just for the farm worker but the whole family.”
Rodriguez has been instrumental in bringing higher pay and improved rights to tens of thousands of tomato pickers in Florida. She is a leader of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Women’s Group which encourages farmworker women to stand up for their rights. She has provided council and assistance to the Coalition’s anti-slavery work. And she was there to support and aid several women who endured sexual harassment on one of Florida’s largest tomato farms.
This mother of three is passionate about fairness and equality for farmworkers. Her understanding of the problems comes not from years of education…she only attended elementary school…it comes from real-life experiences and a work ethic and passion that is unsurpassed.