While many associate Labor Day Weekend with cookouts and late summer parties, the national holiday, dating back to the late 1800s, honors workers’ bounty of contributions in the movement for safe working conditions, dignity in the workplace and living wages. And in the spirit of commemorating the roots of Labor Day Weekend, over 60 farmworkers and Fair Food allies hit the streets of Miami on the first Sunday of this month for a lively march demanding an end to the violence in Publix’s and Wendy’s supply chains. Bright and early, CIW farmworkers and their families loaded protest art, water and megaphones into three vans and headed east across Alligator Alley for the next leg of the Florida Summer of Action!
The high-spirited action off of Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown Miami was led by the CIW, and bolstered by the presence of a diverse group of allies from across South Florida, including students from Florida International University and members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and First United Methodist Church of Miami. After an hour of picketing in the blazing Miami heat, Fair Food delegations made up of farmworkers and local allies attempted to deliver letters to local Publix and Wendy’s managers.
Every member of the delegation — young and old, farmworker and ally — voiced their commitment to continue pressuring Wendy’s and Publix to do what’s right and just. First up, Jasiel Lopez from Students Working for Equal Rights at Florida International University addressed the crowd:
“As a student organizer on campus, I will continue talking about the Fair Food Program... I will continue to tell my peers that Publix and Wendy’s have refused to sign the Fair Food Program. I will continue to take that message wherever I go. I will not stop talking about it, and I will stand in solidarity with the farmworkers in Immokalee and across this country fighting for dignity, respect, and fair treatment in the fields.”
Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri Co-Moderator of the PC(USA) General Assembly hails from the Tropical Florida presbytery, a presbytery that has long supported the CIW attended the action and shared these words:
“The Presbyterian Church has been a longtime ally to the Coalition, from the times of Taco Bell, just like the Presbytery of Tropical Florida. We are here in solidarity walking alongside of you, boycotting, because we know it’s the right and just thing to do. Count on the Presbyterian Church because we are here for you... We made a call for Publix and Wendy’s to reconsider and look at what justice really is and what is necessary for the wellness of our farmworker men and women.”
Julia de la Cruz of the CIW drove it home with a powerful message in the spirit of Labor Day:
“They did not want to meet with us, but that does not mean that we will stop coming or that we will stop moving forward...The sweat from the farmworkers that are out in the fields should not be in vain but in justice.”
Meanwhile across the state in Gainesville, FL, longtime CIW supporters with Gainesville’s Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice, joined by students at the University of Florida and community members, led an animated picket outside of their local Wendy’s.
The Fair Food Nation observes Labor Day Weekend by challenging the corporate status quo of doing “business as usual” at the expense of workers’ dignity and well-being, and Wendy’s and Publix are not the exception!
All in all, the Florida Summer of Action has set the stage for the upcoming season chock-full of actions. Our solidarity with CIW in the Campaign for Fair Food is an important reminder to corporations that the hard-fought advances in human rights that farmworkers and consumers have achieved through the Fair Food Program are here to stay — and any major food retailer that turns a blind eye to the responsibility of eliminating sexual violence and forced labor in their supply chain will ultimately find themselves on the wrong side of history.