Disciples of Christ to Wendy’s: "Tear down the wall!"

For months, members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) prepared to gather from across North America for their General Assembly in Columbus, OH to meet, worship, make key decisions — as well as to confront Wendy’s in its own hometown about their consistent refusal to respect farmworker rights. After years of working in partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, since first endorsing the Taco Bell Boycott a decade ago, the Disciples felt it was the perfect time to take direct action with Wendy’s. They were moved not only by their cherished value of justice, but also by one crucial piece of Disciples history: Dave Thomas, the late founder of Wendy’s, was a member of the Disciples of Christ!

When the long-awaited day of the protest arrived this past Sunday, a forecast of flash floods and lightning threatened to force a change of plans. But just moments before the action was scheduled to begin, the sun broke through and Disciples poured out, over one hundred strong, into the streets of Columbus toward a newly-opened downtown Wendy’s.

The action was sponsored by a wide-variety of groups: Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Disciples Justice Action Network, North American Pacific Asian Disciples, Disciples Peace Fellowship, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Columbia, Ohio Fair Food, the Central Ohio Worker Center and Ohio State University Student/Farmworker Alliance (there to remind Wendy’s that the ongoing national student boycott of Wendy’s is only building momentum at its origin campus of OSU!).

In what was for a majority of marchers their first time participating in an action of this kind, the Disciples peacefully marched, chanted, and carried signs urging Wendy’s to end their silence in the face of the Coalition’s two-and-a-half year call to join the Fair Food Program: ‘Walk humbly, Love mercy, Do justice!” “God is fair. Are you, Wendy’s?”

Dave Thomas’s memory was invoked repeatedly by his Disciples brethren. In the words of Floridian Rev. Jack Barnes, “I am convinced that if he were still alive today, we would not have to be here. Let’s keep the pressure on to remind them of their heritage, as well as to continue our own heritage of justice.”

When a delegation of marchers was prevented from delivering a letter to the restaurant manager, things grew momentarily tense…

But the frustration was soon turned masterfully into a moment for reflection on faith in action, as Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea (above in red) recalled a story from the Disciples tradition that captured the spirit of the moment. In Joshua 6, she recounted, it’s told that the Hebrew people were able to tear down a city wall by doing nothing more than following their faith and marching persistently around the massive wall for seven days.  Rev. Stanley-Rea drew the parallel to the barrier Wendy’s has erected in order to ignore the rights of farmworkers: “And I pray with you that together through all of the parts of the Disciples of Christ that are represented here, we will continue working here to tear down the wall!”  She led the refrain over and over, all one hundred chanting with her: “Tear down the wall down! Tear down the wall!”

All in all, it was an incredibly powerful evening, charged with electric energy and a resolve made only stronger by the unseemly turn of events.  The CIW’s Julia de la Cruz closed out the action with these words: “We are not unaccustomed to Wendy’s closing the door on us and refusing to let us enter.  But our struggle is never to become discouraged, but to increase our energy and commitment as we fight for justice, justice for all farmworkers. We will keep fighting.  The Disciples of Christ have supported us for so many years, and the struggle continues.  Before long, Wendy’s will have to join the Fair Food Program.”


After years of organizing, Florida United Methodists bring forth resolution calling on Publix — and win in a decisive victory

“In particular, I have members in my congregation who are key executives in Publix…"

A long-awaited milestone moment in the almost-six-year Publix campaign transpired this past weekend in sunny Daytona Beach, where the Florida United Methodist Church (UMC) held their Annual Conference. After years of on-the-ground organizing by farmworkers and United Methodist allies, a key resolution on farmworker justice calling on Publix to join the Fair Food Program was brought forth before the delegates representing 700 churches across Florida. 

The Florida UMC had never successfully passed a resolution in support of the human rights of farmworkers, despite various attempts throughout the decades. Moreover, as those who verbally opposed the resolution on the floor admitted themselves, Publix is a prominent supporter of Methodist institutions throughout the state. Needless to say, the impending vote was charged with this interconnected relationship, giving enormous weight to whichever way Publix’s Methodist brethren would vote. Anticipation had been building for months, until the final hour of the four-day conference, when the resolution was finally presented.


At the end of the day, justice won out in a landslide victory, with a margin far wider than any of the other resolutions on the floor. Not only that, but not one, but two planned attempts were made to strip the resolution of its power through amendments: in one version, removing mention of Publix altogether, and in a second version, exchanging the request that the church “call on Publix… to join the Fair Food Program” for an empty appeal to "strongly encourage that corporation to support farmworkers in a generous and meaningful way.” Despite the impassioned speeches made in favor of both these amendments, too many clergy and laity were thoroughly prepared to explain to the thousand delegates gathered why nothing less than a full and direct call to Publix on behalf of the whole church would be acceptable. Too many dedicated United Methodist allies had engaged in education and action over the years, from listening to farmworker presentations in Sunday church services; to countless clergy and lay leaders marching and fasting; to hundreds of United Methodist Women writing letters and holding vigil.

And so both amendments — as enticing as the path of least resistance could have sounded — were voted down. Finally, the Bishop called a vote on the main motion itself, despite many leaders still waiting in the wings to speak strongly in its favor, from a clergy person and Publix stockholder who spent years working at Publix, to a United Methodist Woman, to a reverend who pastors to Methodist farmworkers, to a church leader who was once minister to Publix’s highest ranking executives. And then, on the big screen, the numbers revealed themselves: 515 for, 165 against. The resolution had passed overwhelmingly.

With this comment, it became clear that Publix's financial muscle has lost its power to persuade even the members of its own community. In the moral arena of the corporation’s decision makers, the body has spoken, and the message is unmistakable: Publix, it’s time to come to the table, and for the first time ever, sit face-to-face with farmworkers. It’s time to join the Fair Food Program.

We wouldn’t want to spare anyone the details of the dramatic unfolding of the resolution’s passing, so please head to the CIW website for the full report. Enjoy listening to the CIW’s United Methodist allies beautifully articulate the urgency behind Publix committing to a proven solution to abuse in the fields, and do spread the news: The tide has turned. At this point, it’s just a matter of time.

Join the National Day of Action on June 20th calling on Ben & Jerry's to Stand for Dairy Farmworkers' Rights

Across Vermont’s rolling hills and pastoral landscapes, a broad-based movement, led by dairy farmworkers themselves, has been steadily building for years to confront egregious human rights abuses, including dangerous working conditions, no time off and substandard housing.

Dubbed Milk with Dignity, Vermont dairy workers are forging a solution, modeled on key concepts of the CIW’s Fair Food Program, to harness the market power of major retailers to enforce a set of worker-designed human rights standards and increase pay at dairy farms across The Green Mountain State. 

For several years, workers have sought to inform Ben and Jerry’s about human rights violations in its supply chain and call on the ice cream giant to become the first company to join the Milk with Dignity Program. Yet, Ben and Jerry’s has failed to make a commitment to dairy workers rights, instead promoting their “Caring Dairy” initiative, a farmer self-monitoring program that denies farmworkers a real voice in the decisions that affect their lives.

Demonstrating the power of the growing grassroots movement to call on Ben and Jerry’s to commit to Milk with Dignity, Migrant Justice is planning a National Day of Action on June 20th at Ben and Jerry’s scoop shops nationwide. 

In the words of farmworker leader Enrique Balcazar:

"Join us for a national day of action on June 20th calling on Ben & Jerry's to take responsibility for these conditions in their supply chain. They've stood up to protect cows and chickens but not farmworkers! We need Milk with Dignity!"

Will you join them and help ensure dairy farmworkers win the dignity and respect they deserve?

Get in on the action by planning a letter delegation or a solidarity action at your local Ben and Jerry’s! For action planning resources, head to the Migrant Justice site or contact info@migrantjustice.net / 802-540-8370.

Get up! Get Down! Milk with Dignity's Comin' to Town!

Midwest turns up for Wendy's shareholder meeting!

Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting began before 8 a.m. in the quiet Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio, on a cold, wind-whipped Monday morning.  Undaunted, some 75 people, inspired by the tireless organizing of Ohio allies, took the workday off to travel to the action, from as far away as Cincinnati and Ann Arbor.  Fair Food Nation members brandished their banners and signs, forming a funnel for the arriving shareholders.  The crew was made up of countless organizations, their bond now deep after two and a half years of organizing together in the Wendy’s campaign:  Ohio Fair Food, the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, the Central Ohio Workers Center, SFA at the Ohio State University, SFA at the University of Michigan, Real Food Challenge, Ohio AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America and First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, to name just a few!

Immediately before the meeting, the gathered protesters turned the gray day vibrant as they chanted and cheered in a jubilant send-off to CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo as she headed inside the meeting.  As the doors closed, the allies picked up their yellow flags and marched to the Wendy’s nearby flagship restaurant.  After a high-spirited protest there, the group gathered 'round for a spontaneous reflection.  When the circle finally closed, nobody was ready to leave without hearing the meeting report — so everyone piled into a nearby coffee shop to escape the wind and await the news.

At just about that time, inside the meeting, the moment had finally come for Lupe to address Wendy’s executives and shareholders alike.  Word for word, here is what she said:

Buenos dias. Mi nombre es Lupe Gonzalo. Soy un representante de la Coalición de Trabajadores de Immokalee. Estoy aquí el día de hoy por que hace 10 años ya, que enviamos una carta pidiéndole a Wendy’s a llegar a un estándar de ética mas elevado dentro de su cadena de surtidores, y a pagar un precio mas alto para los sueldos de pobreza que reciben los trabajadores del campo. 
(Click here for English version.)
Desde entonces, 90% de los rancheros del tomate de la Florida se han unido al Programa por Comida Justa, al lado de los cuatro competidores mas grandes de Wendy’s que han reconocido el Programa como un paso importante para modernizar sus cadenas de surtidores.
Sin duda, el Programa ha movido mucha de la industria del tomate en la Florida al siglo 21: eliminando esclavitud moderna y enormemente reduciendo el acoso sexual, entre otras cosas. Por eso, este año, la casa blanca nos premió con la Medalla Presidencial por esfuerzos extraordinarios en combatir al esclavitud moderna.
Pero, no queremos quedarnos ahi. No queremos que este programa solamente afecta a miles de trabajadores adentro de los campos del tomate en la Florida, sino que también a los cientos de miles de trabajadores en otros estados y otros vegetales. Con el compromiso de Walmart en 2014, ya estamos listos para esa expansion.
Pero se necesita el compromiso de Wendy’s para que los trabajadores en su cadena no quedan afuera. A la vez, participar en el programa le ayudaría a Wendy’s a prevenir el riesgo de relaciones publicas y poder dar a sus consumidores un producto que realmente es honesto.

Shareholders smiled and nodded in Lupe’s direction.  As she finished, heads turned back to the front of the room for CEO Emil Brolick’s response:

We are proud to partner with suppliers that share our commitment to ethical business behaviors.  We have previously communicated our stance on the Fair Food Premium: While we support the goals of an organization that seeks to improve human rights, we prefer to rely on our suppliers to act as signatories to the agreement.  We are in the process of developing a Supplier Code of Conduct by year-end, and will continue to consider the best means of promoting responsible business practices in our suppliers.

Next up was a statement prepared by Ohio State University SFA’s Amanda Ferguson:

Last year, my fellow student at OSU, Sara Stanger, stood here and informed you that after countless unanswered attempts at communicating with Wendy’s leadership, we were moving forward with a national campaign called Boot the Braids, wherein we — and students around the country — would be meeting with our administrations and organizing demonstrations on our campuses to end university licensing contracts with Wendy’s until the company commits to support the CIW’s Fair Food Program. 
In the year since then, Wendy’s has still not joined what the Washington Post called “one of the great human rights success stories of our day.”  And the reaction from millennials like myself has only grown stronger. […]
[…]  Two months ago, with still no word from Wendy’s, students from universities across the country with Wendy’s restaurants on campus took to the stage before thousands at the CIW’s Concert & Parade for Fair Food and announced a national student boycott of Wendy’s — to begin on my campus, OSU.  Since that time, the University of Michigan, whose students stand in support outside of this meeting space, has likewise adopted the boycott, and dozens of others are preparing to follow suit.
As a millennial, I recognize I am part of the target market of the fast food industry.  I speak for my generation when I say that new, flashy branding and modern restaurants are not enough to attract our business.  Our concerns for the food we eat goes beyond the menu.  As students and young people, we want to know that the food we consume does not come at the cost of another person’s dignity.  We want to know that this is a commitment of Wendy’s, too.
As the student boycott continues to grow, is Wendy’s ready to continue alienating young people and consumers rather than join a proven solution to farmworker poverty and abuse?

And with that, the meeting was adjourned and all were excused — though not before two shareholders approached Lupe to tell her how powerfully she had delivered the CIW’s message, and that they would be keeping an eye on this matter with their organizations’  pension funds in mind.

Fifteen minutes later, as Lupe walked through the double doors of the café where the protestors were gathered together with their warm drinks, the crowd burst into thunderous applause and cheers.  Moved by the unexpected, beautiful show of support, Lupe gave a powerful report-back from the meeting, letting them know that the presence and commitment of each and every one of them — and each and every person in the fair food movement, from the workers in Immokalee to those who are always ready to stand with them — not only make this struggle for justice possible, but enriching and joyous along the way.

Asheville turns out for farmworker justice at grand opening of city's first Publix!

Last week, as Publix prepared to open its doors to the good people of Asheville for the first time, a crew of farmworkers and allies from Immokalee also made the long trek to join Ashevillians in welcoming the Florida-based grocery chain with the message of Fair Food! 

Bright and early last Wednesday morning, a stalwart group of local allies joined CIW member Julia de la Cruz outside the store's grand opening. With banners, flags, and flyers in hand, the group positioned itself alongside the larger-than-life inflatable green grocery bag heralding the presence of Asheville’s newest supermarket.

As the inaugural customers turned into the parking lot, many of them stopped to ask about the campaign, expressing dismay over Publix’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program.  Local residents took part in a delegation to meet the new manager and deliver a letter, explaining that Asheville consumers would continue to organize alongside the CIW until Publix decided to "do the right thing."  Publix, of course, offered up the well-worn, well-refuted ‘labor dispute/put-in-in-the-price’ combo response that they so often give to Florida residents.

The rest of the day was spent in the classroom, sharing the latest Campaign news with students and professors at Warren Wilson College.  On campus later that evening, students and Asheville community members gathered for a screening of Food Chains.  The closing credits were met with robust applause and, after a wave of questions about both the expansion of the Fair Food Program into North Carolina and Publix’s confounding refusal to be part of the transformation in Florida’s fields, all the movie-goers committed to taking action.

The Immokalee crew returned to Publix on Saturday in true Campaign for Fair Food fashion -- along with over 60 Asheville allies, including members of Nuestro Centro, COLA, the Western North Carolina Workers Center, and buses of students from Warren Wilson College -- holding a high-energy picket full of art, accompanied by chants for justice over the beat of a tomato bucket drum.

Members of the manager delegation took with them a printed response to Publix’s misinformation about the Fair Food Program. CIW’s Julia de la Cruz explained that the Program has never been a labor dispute, but is instead an unprecedented collaboration between growers, farmworkers and major retail buyers — and that the penny is, in fact, in the price (a point the CIW first published back in 2011, which Publix has readily ignored).

At the protest, Bruno, a 15-year Asheville resident, expressed his astonishment at Publix’s resistance to the FFP, saying that he and many others wouldn’t be visiting the new store until they saw a change.  His sentiment was shared by one of the many Warren Wilson students who joined the delegation, one of whom shared that although she’d only just learned of the Publix campaign after seeing Food Chains, she felt fully committed to standing up for farmworker justice. 

The question voiced by many as the picket wrapped up  captured the energy and excitement of a community ready to take up the Fair Food banner in the Publix campaign: “What’s next?”

In the words of the day’s final chant, “We’ll be back!”

With unyielding actions taking place all across the Fair Food Nation, from Nashville to Asheville, we’re communicating that Publix cannot dream to win the loyalty of consumers in North Carolina without first making the commitment to human rights for farmworkers back home a reality. 

Statement of solidarity with Baltimore

We stand with the people of Baltimore and the millions of Black people across the country who, in the wake of the brutal murders of #FreddieGray and #MyaHall and #RekiaBoyd and too many more, have yet again come together to fight for their lives and livelihoods.

We honor the resilience and resistance of communities rising up to boldly lay claim to their humanity in the face of racism, poverty and state-sanctioned violence.

Today, as thousands in Baltimore and around the country take action in solidarity, we recommit to our work of standing with Black and Brown people laboring in the fields as they lead their struggle for justice and dignity, and to resolutely act in the making of a world where all #BlackLivesMatter.

In power and love,
The Alliance for Fair Food

From Nashville to Columbus, Fair Food Groups turn up the heat on Publix and Wendy’s!

Earlier this month, Nashville Fair Food turned up the decibel on the Publix campaign by taking Publix manager letter deliveries to a whole new level: they would host the “Amazing Race for Farmworker Justice” and hit all 30 stores in the Middle Tennessee area in a single day.

Their goal was to be able to talk to their Publix managers — local to local, away from corporate officials who travel from Florida to intercept the delegations at announced pickets — about why Publix needs to join the Fair Food Program. 

Nashville Fair Food expected a response from Publix, of course, but they didn’t know the lengths to which they would go. Two days before the action, Publix went so far as to hire attorneys, who sent letters to Nashville Fair Food and the CIW warning them in so many words that Publix would be ready to arrest customers simply for trying to talk to their local manager. 

In response, Nashville Fair Food created a powerful new social media campaign posing the prompt, “If Publix listened to all customers, I would have said…” Read the full play-by-play and check out the dozens of creative messages Nashville residents sent in response!

Meanwhile, on Monday, a coalition of Ohioans gathered outside the opening of the newest Wendy’s near the Ohio State University (OSU) campus, cutting the proverbial ribbon — and the afternoon air — with unflinching demands for Fair Food. The action came just one month after the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) took to the stage at the Concert for Fair Food before thousands to announce a national student boycott of Wendy’s, to begin at none other than OSU, Wendy’s hometown university. 

The declaration was not just a local announcement of the boycott, however, as OSU student and SFA steering committee member, Amanda Ferguson, says, but also “a call to action going out to thousands of students across the country to boycott Wendy's until they, too, are part of the solution.” And so this weekend, students all around the country are heeding that call by planning actions at their local Wendy’s, with some twenty universities slated to participate.

The chorus calling on Wendy’s and Publix is only growing louder this spring! Stay tuned to hear how it all rolls out…

Valentine's Weekend of Action takes Wendy's by storm!

From coast to coast, hundreds of people of all ages and communities asked Wendy's to find its heart and respect farmworkers this Valentine's Day – the lone fast food holdout saw actions all around the country and a flood of social media pressure from the Fair Food Nation! The CIW Women's Group and their children led the charge with a glitter-filled Valentine drop off to Wendy's in Immokalee, and the Fair Food Nation followed suit with creative V-Day actions from performing in-restaurant theatre pieces to delivering Fair Food Valentines and more. 

Here’s a city-by-city overview of the national Valentine’s Weekend of Action: 


On Valentine’s Day, the Denver Fair Food crew rose bright and early to meet with three different Wendy’s managers in the Denver suburb of Thornton! They delivered an overflowing box of handmade Valentine’s cards bearing the Fair Food message to three receptive, intrigued and polite managers. Once the managers received their cards, Denver Fair Food finished the action by performing an original skit featuring their own Fair Food tomato proposing that Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program, which was received with a surprising round of applause from behind the counter.

Like our friends in Denver, the DC Fair Food crew opted for a morning letter delivery and theater piece performance at their local Wendy’s. But, in this skit there were no happy endings. Although some tears were shed, these were their words to Wendy’s: “Last year we asked you to join the Fair Food Program. A year later, you still haven’t joined. And today, we’re breaking up with you!” 

By combining efforts and multi-tasking at their two-day art workshop, Treasure Coast Fair Food created an interactive art feature, marching signs, and Valentines to Wendy’s and Publix! The group made double-header appearances for Valentine’s Weekend of Action: First on Valentine’s Day, debuting their art piece at the One Billion Rising for Justice event in Stuart, FL and wowing the crowd who joined them in posting selfies to Wendy’s on social media. The next evening, TC Fair Food visited the Unitarian Universalist Church in Vero Beach, FL for a discussion forum about the “Food Chains” documentary and the importance of the Fair Food Program! 

A Gainesville delegation of Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice members, UF students and local community members, turned out to deliver a letter to the manager at the local Wendy's, urging the hamburger giant to meet with CIW and join the Fair Food Program. Carrying posters with Valentine's Day slogans, such as "Have a heart, Wendy's," the delegation had a polite conversation with the local manager who promised to forward the letter to corporate. 

New York Fair Food went on a selfie spree by inviting local groups, such as WESPAC NY and SUNY Purchase to join them and the rest of the Fair Food Nation in sharing tons of V-Day selfies to Wendy’s on social media! On Valentine’s Day, the group flooded the local Galleria Mall with Wendy’s campaign flyers, detailing the hamburger giant’s complicity in refusing to join the Fair Food Program, and culminated their visit by dropping off a huge Valentine to the Wendy’s manager in the mall’s food court! 

The First Unitarian Universalists of Columbus visited Wendy’s Headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, to deliver letters, cards and Valentines signed by over 100 children and adults in the congregation, in hopes of engaging in a dialogue with Emil Brolick, Wendy’s CEO, to urge him to do what is right and respect farmworkers! However, Mr. Brolick and other executives hid behind their corporate veil and the group was told he wasn’t available to meet and address their concerns. The group exited the headquarters with more energy and will to continue pressuring Wendy’s to come to the table with farmworkers and join the Fair Food Program! 

With Valentine’s Day signs in hand, a delegation of 6th graders from the Beth Chaim Congregation paid a visit to the Walnut Creek Wendy’s to let the local manager know that there is an order of business to be dealt with, and it’s called the Fair Food Program! The manager heard the youngsters out, agreed to pass along the letter to corporate, and even posed for a photo with the group! 

Seventh and 8th graders at Kolot Chayeinu / Voices of Our Lives Congregation in Brooklyn busted out scissors, cardboard and markers for an art and music-filled class – targeting Wendy's for the lack of respect it shows the farmworkers who pick their tomatoes! The students got creative and strummed up a Fair Food tune for Wendy's, asking the multi-billion dollar corporation to shell out just one penny more per pound and support human rights for workers! 

The Panhandle Fair Food crew staged an action outside their local Pensacola Wendy's restaurant, delivering a Valentine's Day card and over 100 manager letters, in an effort to invite the local community to learn more about the Fair Food Program and join them for not one, but two Food Chains screenings lined up for next month in Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama! 

On the social media front, hundreds submitted V-Day selfies holding decorative and creative Fair Food messages to Wendy’s, amplifying the message of farmworker justice through the far reaches of the Fair Food Nation squarely onto Wendy’s virtual doorstep! 

Below is a preview of the most creative V-Day selfies, but visit our Facebook album to view them all! 

CIW Awarded Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Modern Slavery

"...[our] efforts, born in a forgotten community’s desperate struggle for survival, were celebrated in the halls of power of the highest office of the land.” - CIW

In case you missed it, just a few short weeks ago the CIW was awarded the 2015 Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Presented at the White House by Secretary of State John Kerry,  the award reads: 

“For its extraordinary efforts to combat human trafficking by pioneering the Fair Food Program, empowering agricultural workers, and leveraging market forces and consumer awareness to promote supply chain transparency and eradicate modern slavery on participating farms, we award this Presidential Award.”

This week, news of the award has continued to make waves, with an excellent analysis in the Huffington Post titled  "This Human Rights Group Is A Model For How The U.S. Can End Slave Labor." The piece, which lays out the power of the Fair Food Program model the CIW has created, reads, in part:

"The White House noted the 'excellent work' being done through CIW’s Fair Food Program, which connects farmers, farmworkers and retailers to ensure all workers are paid fairly and working conditions are humane.

According to The White House, the program’s unique approach to promote consumer awareness and leverage market power — working with such giants as Walmart, McDonald’s and Subway — has helped to fight labor trafficking within the Sunshine State’s tomato industry."

In its presentation following the award at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains, the CIW used the opportunity to stress the total failure of traditional corporate self-monitoring standards, in which corporations claim to uphold human rights in their supply chains through empty, PR-driven vendor codes.

In contrast, the CIW  outlined the innovative model in which workers play the principal role in designing, implementing and monitoring their own rights, sharing their vision to strengthen and expand the historic gains underway in Florida's fields, saying:

“It was a humbling moment, and the medal represents a solemn responsibility to continue this fight so that the full potential of the worker-driven social responsibility model may be reached in low-wage worker communities throughout the agricultural industry and around the world.”

Kerry further recognized the incredible work of the CIW and the transformational role the Fair Food Program has played in bringing justice for farmworkers to the fields:

“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have organized communities, stood by tomato workers for more than 20 years, and changed the face of this industry. They’ve pioneered a zero tolerance policy that puts workers and social responsibility at the absolute center. Their program ensures a price premium which buyers agree to pay directly to the farm worker, and the Coalition provides worker-to-worker training sessions on site around the clock. They make certain that there are health and safety committees... on every farm. And they’ve already enlisted the major support of buyers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Compass Group, and Fresh Market.”

The moment was celebrated around the country, with shout-outs from Civil Eats and Eva Longoria to Chief Assistant US Attorney Doug Molloy, and even one special message the CIW themselves:

“We want to close with a warm thanks to all of the close allies who have accompanied us for the twenty years leading up to this moment.  The medal first and foremost honors thousands of farmworkers — the victims of forced labor, the resolute witnesses, and the many other courageous men and women who have been fighting to eradicate abuse from an entire industry.  But it also goes out to the many, many people across the country (and the world) who have marched beside them for the past two decades.”

ANNOUNCED: Parade & Concert for Fair Food on March 21st

It’s official — the CIW’s major spring action will be Saturday, March 21! Get ready for an unforgettable Parade & Concert for Fair Food!

Sometimes its hard to believe that we’ve come as far as we have. Just fifteen short years ago, farmworkers were making their first national call to would-be supporters in all corners of the country to join them in a vision, a vision wherein every person doing the undervalued, underpaid, back-breaking work of harvesting in the fields could do so with fair wages, just working conditions, and their right to return home at the end of the day with their dignity in tact.

It was a vision created so collectively, articulated so intelligently, led so powerfully that the farmworkers to whom it belonged galvanized communities all over the country to join them in their new, national Campaign for Fair Food.

Today, in 2015, it’s hardly a vision anymore. It’s a reality. 

Today, the fourth full season of the Fair Food Program has seen protections in the Florida tomato industry stronger than ever before, with over twenty thousand workers educated by their CIW peers on their new rights: the right to report abuse without fear of retaliation; the right to form participatory health and safety committees; the right to work free of wage theft, sexual harassment, slavery. In the recent words of one worker: “Our dignity has been restored.”

We see a new horizon now, one not of a just Florida tomato industry, but of a just US agricultural industry. Indeed, the Fair Food Program is poised for a steady expansion into other states and crops, with the potential to affect tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, more workers.

But the proliferation of these rights across industries is not inevitable. It requires, more than ever, the participation of allies around the country to heed the call of the CIW and convince remaining corporate holdouts, principal among them Publix and Wendy’s, to stop their futile attempts to turn back the clocks and join this proven solution to decades-old farmworker abuse. 

So this spring, we’ll take to the streets of downtown St. Petersburg toward Publix and Wendy’s — but this time, parade-style. Because though their intransigence is unconscionable, we have cause to celebrate — and we’re certainly not going to let them turn us ‘round. Our vibrant procession, full of original artwork, puppets, and even floats, will wind its way until arriving at Vinoy Park for an unmatched Concert for Fair Food, which promises unforgettable dusk-time performances on the edge of the water.

So whether you’re in the Northeast or Midwest, California or Texas or Tennessee — and absolutely if you’re in Florida — start talking about caravans! This movement has derived its power from the unbreakable relationship between brilliant farmworker leadership and unflappable commitment of ally communities. This major action is our moment to demonstrate our collective power to Publix and Wendy’s — and it’s also a time for us to build. It’s a time for us to join together, in person, after eleven months of common cause despite geographical difference, and ground our continued work together in our relationships with one another and the transformation we’ve already begun in the fields today.

We’ll be back soon with more details — who is coordinating rides from which cities, where to fly in, and, of course, which artists will be performing — but for now, start spreading the word, and get ready. This a moment you’re not going to want to miss.