The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a “worker center” advocacy group that represents farmworkers and oversees campaigns intended to improve farmworker pay and working conditions. The group is a tax-exempt nonprofit that is not a traditional labor union.
The CIW started among a small group of Florida farmworkers before launching its various campaigns and expanding to other states. It has utilized strikes, protests and “corporate campaign” pressure tactics to secure concessions from numerous businesses like restaurants and grocery stores. The group primarily works with farmworkers while much of its other advocacy involves offshoot campaigns and associated organizations. The three main campaigns it oversees cover wages, working conditions, anti-slavery initiatives and its agreements with business partners. 
The CIW has garnered praise over the years but also its fair share of criticism. The group has been accused of harassment and has been challenged on its tax-exempt status, though the IRS has taken no action on the complaints as of June 2019. 
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) began among a small group of farmworkers in the Florida tomato-production industry who started organizing in response to declining wages in 1993.  The group was later officially founded as a nonprofit in 1996. 
CIW became very active over the next several years between engaging in work stoppages and protests.  It also assisted in several investigations and federal prosecutions which have resulted in Florida farmworkers being freed from forced labor. 
Taco Bell became an early target of the CIW which resulted in a corporate campaign against the major fast-food company in 2000. The CIW called on the company to take responsibility for producers’ labor practices. 
Taco Bell eventually agreed to the demands which included improved wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers in March 2005.  McDonald’s would later agree to a similar agreement after a two-year corporate campaign in April 2007. 
The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange and the CIW later reached an agreement to provide better wages and working conditions for workers. CIW formed its “Fair Food Program” in the following year based on that agreement in 2011. 
The CIW and its affiliate groups have used strikes, boycotts, and other forms of protests to get companies to sign onto labor agreements. Some conservative and business critics have denounced the methods used as harassment and pressure tactics. 
CIW is a nonprofit association that claims to represent 5,000 farm workers as of 2016.  The organization also oversees three main groups with the stated goals of fighting involuntary servitude, unfair working conditions, and for better wages.  The group is currently targeting Kroger, Publix, and Wendy’s. 
CIW organizes and provides support to workers in specific industries or communities much like a labor union, except that it is not covered by labor law restrictions imposed on unions through the National Labor Relations Act.  Because CIW is organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, foundations may give it money easily; notable liberal foundations that have contributed to CIW include Kresge Foundation, the Buffett family-associated NoVo Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and George Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society. 
Fair Food Program
The CIW’s flagship “Fair Food Program,” created as part of an agreement between the Florida Tomato Growers, has operated since 2011.  Participating retailers agree to buy tomatoes exclusively from growers who follow the model code of conduct negotiated by CIW and the growers’ association. 
The Anti-Slavery Campaign is aimed at investigating and prosecuting farm forced-labor operations across the southeast. CIW claims to have helped liberate Florida farmworkers held against their will since the early 1990s. The CIW co-founded the National Freedom Network USA and the Freedom Network Training Institute to combat human trafficking as a part of those efforts. 
CIW has also advocated in support of numerous laws aimed at preventing slavery, like the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act. 
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is overseen by various leadership and officer positions, though the positions are not easily found publicly. Ramior Pina was listed as the board president and the most senior official back in 2016. There are also three other board member seats. Meghan Cohorst is listed as the secretary of the group. Julia Perkins is the office manager and appears to be the only leader paid by CIW, receiving $31,200 annually as of 2016.
Lawsuit Over Wages
Migrant Farmworker Justice Project (MFJP) managing director Gregory Schell filed a lawsuit on behalf of migrant labor advocates against the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in 2011. That evolved into four class action lawsuits by 2013. The lawsuits alleged the worker center and its business partners have failed to pay thousands of dollars to the workers they represented.  CIW denies the allegations, arguing that the legal challenge is “predicated on false premises.” 
The lawsuits also took issue with how the group is classified as a nonprofit organization instead of a labor union. The MFJP argued at the time that this has resulted in a lack of transparency because the group does not disclose its activities to workers or get their approval when making deals with employers. 
Tax-Exempt Status Challenge
The Center for Union Facts (CUF), a politically right-leaning union watchdog, challenged the CIW’s tax-exempt status in a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service in 2017. The complaint argues that the group is much closer to being a labor union than it is a nonprofit charity.  But that classification allows the group to ignore restrictions, like rules against boycotting secondary employers, imposed on unions under the National Labor Relations Act. 
As of June 2019, the IRS had not taken action on CUF’s complaint.