Worker Group May Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status For Not Serving A ‘Charitable Purpose’

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

A labor watchdog group filed a complaint to the IRS Monday, urging the agency to rip the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) of its tax-exempt status, The Washington Free Beacon reports.

The complaint, filed by the Center for Union Facts, alleges that CIW operates like a labor union, benefitting a group of agriculture workers in Florida instead of serving a “charitable purpose.”

“CIW has primarily engaged in strikes, work stoppages, and hunger strikes to put economic pressure on employers to pay higher wages to farm workers,” the complaint states. “By CIW’s own admission it does not serve the public at large but instead a group of workers seeking concessions from their employers.”

CIW identifies itself as a “worker-based human rights organization.” Its main initiative, the Fair Food Program (FFP), sets up partnerships between food service providers such as McDonalds and Subway and agriculture growers in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida, according to CIW’s website.

The growers must abide by FFP working standards for their laborers and the stores agree to pay a premium for produce from the growers, as well as not purchase from farms that don’t meet FFP standards.

CIW organizes protests and boycotts to pressure businesses into the agreement and ensure compliance. Many worker centers, like CIW, also receive large donations from unions to operate. CIW, however, has not received any significant funds from unions, The Washington Free Beacon reports.

“Many of today’s worker centers have essentially become union front groups, cynically offering traditional worker center services as a false front designed to get a foot in the door whereby focus can shift to more traditional organizing and advocacy,” watchdog Worker Center Watch spokesman Ryan Williams told The Washington Free Beacon. “Unions are creating, funding and working conjunctively with the most recognizable worker centers in the country because by utilizing worker centers they can evade the rules and regulations that govern their operations.”

CIW did not respond to a request for comment.

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