After two decades of farmworker-led struggle, the promise of a New Day of justice for farmworkers in the tomato fields of Florida and beyond has finally taken hold. With 14 food retailers now part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, we are seeing incredible changes — from a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and modern-day slavery, to access to shade, water, and bathrooms, to a real voice on the job — made real not only in Florida, but across state-lines. Just a few months ago, the CIW traveled up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States — Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey — carrying out worker-to-worker education sessions about these new rights for the first time ever with thousands of workers beyond Florida. Since the inaugural season of the Fair Food Program four years ago, workers have been reporting the immense differences between farms on which the Program is implemented and those on which it is not, where the historic abuses of the agricultural industry towards farmworkers continue to persist. Each such report underlines the deep urgency of the reinforcement and expansion of the Program, which will only be possible through more retailers joining — yet, corporations like Wendy’s and Publix continue to utterly deny their responsibility to farmworkers.
During a time of year when many share in acts of guidance, mutuality and charity, the CIW is asking the Fair Food Nation to come together and share in acts of justice. On Saturday, November 21st allies across the country are “Uniting for Fair Food” in a National Day of Action to call on Wendy’s and Publix to move beyond charity and to commit to the human rights of farmworkers and their families.
The Fair Food Nation is already deep in the planning stages: cities, Fair Food groups — from Miami to Nashville and everyone in between — and students at Barry University, St. Thomas University, and University of Michigan (to name just a few!) are gearing up to show Publix and Wendy’s that they must recognize their responsibility to the farmworkers who make their profits possible and ensure that the food they provide is harvested in just conditions.
As Publix works vigorously to open more stores beyond the Florida border, it cannot continue to expand its market across the Southeast without also expanding its commitment to dignity and fair working conditions for farmworkers. The expansion of Publix’s market will continue to contribute to the expansion of poverty and exploitation of farmworkers until Publix takes up its responsibility to the farmworkers within its supply chain.
For over two years, Wendy’s has continued to be the fast-food holdout of the industry. While they promote that they value a “commitment to quality,” they must also value a commitment to the human rights of farmworkers. Wendy’s benefits from the labor of farmworkers and is accountable to ensure that the “quality” behind their burgers is redefined to include a quality of life for farmworkers and their families.
As food retailers that pride themselves in the charity work they do, both Wendy’s and Publix must listen to the call coming directly from the farmworkers in their supply chain, in whose poverty they are complicit: Rather than charity, what farmworkers are calling on Wendy’s and Publix to do is justice. It’s justice that is allowing farmworkers to finally see changes in sub-poverty wages and in the exploitation that once dominated the agriculture industry, changes in an industry that once forced workers to depend on charity for survival. And so it’s justice that farmworkers, students, people of faith and community groups are uniting around this November 21: together, we have held firmly to the belief that we must work together in order to see these changes fully realized, and together we continue to take action.
On November 21st, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Alliance for Fair Food is inviting the Fair Food Nation to show Wendy’s and Publix how justice is truly created. Pickets, marches, manager letter delegations, and community celebrations will be happening all across the country, and we invite you to join in on making this day of action an even stronger call for justice.
If you have any questions or if you would like to plan an action contact us at organize[at]allianceforfairfood[dot]org.
See you in the streets,
The Immokalee Crew