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October 29, 2020

In Tribute to our Friend Steve Hitov

It is with great sadness that we pause to mourn the loss of a giant in the anti-human trafficking and forced labor space. Steve Hitov from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program finally lost his battle with cancer on September 6th. It is impossible to overstate Steve’s contributions to the anti-trafficking and anti-forced labor movements. He was our mentor and friend and was quite simply a powerhouse in this field who worked tirelessly for the betterment of workers.

When Steve was a member of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), he was a guiding force to ensure everything the coalition did was in service of those who were at the heart of suffering from systems of forced labor and those on the front lines fighting it. He was fearless, selfless, brave, empathetic. He held a deep belief in our interconnectedness and the importance of humility and commitment to the work.  He never sought any commendations or praise, instead placing all credit to those workers who led and continue to lead towards their goal of zero tolerance for abuse and exploitation in the agricultural fields of the southeastern U.S. Through his career he was arrested, threatened, and harassed by the supporters of those he was taking on. When CIW started, Immokalee had been called “ground zero for modern slavery in the US.” The CIW and their Fair Food Program changed all of that and turned the fields of southwest Florida into a model for others to follow. While he had been sick for some time, he never stopped fighting for what he believed and worked even harder to make sure those that followed him were prepared to continue the fight with or without him.

Steve will be deeply missed. We encourage you to read this incredible tribute on the CIW website, learn about CIW, then read Steve’s short acceptance speech from the first ever Gwynne Skinner Human Rights award ceremony in 2019. You get to see the full embodiment of the man in his trademark straight-to-the-point way. We send our deepest condolences to his wife and his entire immediate and extended family at CIW. Thank you for everything Steve. May you rest in power.

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