Saturday, February 1, 2014

Spring action announced!: The “Now is the Time” Tour hits the road March 5-15, 2014…

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publix_vigil4Ten-day, ten-city tour to take farmworkers, allies to Wendy’s home state of Ohio, then back to Florida with a last stop in Publix’s hometown of Lakeland…

Stops along the way to include actions in major cities, including Atlanta, GA, Raleigh, NC, Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN!

During his speech at the March on Washington 50 years ago last August, Dr. Martin Luther King shared the following words with the nation — a nation on the brink of turmoil due to the stubborn, centuries-long denial of African Americans’ civil and economic rights by a shrinking circle of hardcore segregationists — to underscore what he called “the fierce urgency of now”:
“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”
The “now” to which Dr. King referred was a crucial moment in the decades-long history of the Civil Rights Movement.  There had been several victories in the years preceding the March on Washington — including the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional and paving the way for large-scale desegregation, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, desegregating the bus system in Montgomery, AL, through community action — but it was still early in the movement, and a long road of struggle remained to be traveled for the victories to take root.

The fierce urgency of now… today

Today, fifty years later, farmworkers find themselves in a similarly crucial moment in their two-decade-old struggle for human rights and dignity.  Since launching the Campaign for Fair Food in 2001 with the Taco Bell Boycott, workers from Immokalee and their allies across the country have seen twelve major victories, from the seminal Fair Food agreement with Taco Bell in 2005 to the agreement with Walmart just last week.  And three years ago, the Campaign for Fair Food brought the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange and over 90% of the Florida tomato industry on board, making possible the 2011 launch of the Fair Food Program.  In the three short years since that landmark agreement, the Fair Food Standards Council has overseen the implementation of the Fair Food Program in Florida’s tomato fields, and the changes – identifying and eliminating the bad actors and bad practices that plagued Florida’s fields for decades, and establishing new practices and policies that promote a safer, more humane workplace – have been nothing short of astonishing.
2013iThose results have been achieved through a combination of worker-to-worker education, an effective complaint investigation and resolution process, regular field and farm office audits, market consequences for violations of the Fair Food Code of Conduct, and the penny-per-pound premium.  The approach is based on two key principles:
1) When it comes to protecting human rights in corporate supply chains, the humans whose rights are in question must be the principal architects of the effort, and;
2) Market consequences are the only incentive powerful enough to ensure consistent compliance with human rights standards.
The FFP’s worker-led, market-driven approach is unique in the world of social accountability, and its success has been noted by observers from the White House to the United Nations.
But though the New Day of respect for fundamental human rights has indeed dawned in Florida’s fields, there remains a great deal more to be done before we can truly walk the “sunlit path of justice” of Dr. King’s vision.

Publix, Wendy’s obstruct the path…

In the wake of the Walmart agreement earlier this month — a watershed moment in the Fair Food movement, signaling the consolidation of the Fair Food Program in the Florida tomato industry and the expansion of its innovative model beyond Florida and to crops other than tomatoes — the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times (one of Publix’s two hometown papers) wrote:
With Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart now participating in the program, there is no reason Publix should not join its grocery competitors in helping to raise pay and improve working conditions in Florida’s tomato fields. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has demonstrated that determination, organization and public outreach can make a real difference in improving the lives of workers who are performing backbreaking work to feed America. Adding Wal-Mart to the effort will pay huge dividends, but there is more work to do… read more
That “more work” to which the Times’ editorial refers is the need to win still more support for the Program from the retail food giants, from companies like Publix and Wendy’s that refuse to step up to the new industry standards for human rights protection in their supply chains.
The Fair Food Program’s impact on workers’ lives is a direct function of the number of buyers participating in the Program.  Through the penny-per-pound premium that goes to improve wages, more buyers means a larger Fair Food bonus on workers’  paychecks.  And through the participating buyers’  commitment to purchase Florida tomatoes only from growers that comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, more buyers means greater support for the participating growers that meet the human rights standards set out in the Code.  And so every day that Publix and Wendy’s refuse to join, the  Fair Food Program is unable to realize its full potential, and farmworkers’ poverty is prolonged. 
Wendys_Flagship_old_2In 2001, we launched the Campaign for Fair Food with a simple slogan:  Taco Bell makes farmworkers poor.  But today, Publix and Wendy’s are keeping farmworkers poor through their unconscionable refusal to join their competitors in support of the Fair Food Program.  
What’s worse: Today, with their primary competitors supporting the penny-per-pound premium, both Wendy’s and Publix are actively profiting from their refusal to join the Program, wringing a small cost advantage over their competitors out of the meager wages of farmworkers who pick their tomatoes.  
Now is the time for this indefensible exploitation to end.  Now is the time for Publix and Wendy’s to abandon the road that leads back to the day when farmworkers were invisible and the hollow claims of corporate-led social responsibility went unchallenged.  Now is the time for Publix and Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Nation — farmworkers, consumers, growers, and their competitors — on the road to real social responsibility, respect for farmworkers as human beings, and a 21st century food industry where human rights are not only protected, but valued, the road to the New Day.

And so, we go on the road again…

In March, 2002, we hit the road for the first time in the Taco Bell Truth Tour.  This year, twelve years and twelve Fair Food agreements later, we are going on the road again on the “Now is the Time” Tour, calling on Publix and Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.  The Tour will cover ten cities in ten days and will take us from Florida to Ohio and back again, with actions in major cities along the route.   

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fair Food Means Fair Wages

IAIJ joins the protest at McDonald's restaurant at NE University Avenue and Waldo Road in Gainesville on Thursday December 5 as part of a nationwide demand by fast-food workers to be paid a living wage.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Calling on Wendy's to Support Fair Food

A delegation from Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice visited Wendy's at 3611 SW Archer Road in Gainesville on Sunday afternoon December 1 to ask the local manager to remind corporate leadership that consumers want Wendy's to join the other fast-food tomato buyers who have signed the Fair Food Agreement providing farm workers with a living wage and decent working conditions.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Breaking Bread, Building Bridges" October 29.

Gainesville's Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice and Westminster Presbyterian Church will work together to introduce a new program to encourage dialogue about immigration issues in local faith communities.  Church members and student activists from IAIJ and CHISPAS will share their stories and talk about the pressing human need for comprehensive immigration reform.

The supper will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday October 29 in the Community Building of Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1525 NW 34th Street, Gainesville, Florida.

Everyone is invited – please bring a dish to share. There will be a discussion on immigrant issues and sharing how our families immigrated to this country. Please contact the Westminster Church Office at 352-378-4032 or email if you will be attending.

We hope this pilot project will be taken up by other faith communities in Gainesville and Alachua County.
Alachua County Migrants Share Their Stories in New Documentary Film First Screened October 1

"Siempre Adelante" a documentary film about recent immigrants in Alachua County, Florida had its world premiere at Pugh Hall on the University of Florida campus October 1.  Rev. Jaime Zelaya had the idea for a film that could be used in faith communities and other settings to help local residents better understand their new neighbors.  The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF helped him bring the project to completion.
"Siempre Adelante" will be available for screening as copies were made for all IAIJ congregations.

                                        Candy Herrera and Marihelen Wheeler lead the march down NW 34th Street

We began with a rally at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where Rev. Larry Green is pastor.  Westminster youth led by Rev. Paige Porter-Buhl and United Church of Gainesville (UCC) led by Rev. Andy Bachmann made signs and banners. 

 We heard speakers challenge us to hear the Florida farm workers' cry for justice.

                                              Lupe Gonzalo and Oscar Otzoy from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

                                                            Rev. Eve MacMaster of Emmanuel Mennonite Church 
                                                               Dr. Sam Trickey of National Farm Worker Ministry
                                       Father Les Singleton of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, Micanopy, FL

A heavy rain doesn't stop youth

or age

from demonstrating for fair food at Publix

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Appreciate Gainesville 

Tropical downpour only whets Fair Food activists’ appetite for action on big first day of Southeast tour…

The Publix Truth Tour launched yesterday with a dramatic send-off from some of the CIW’s most stalwart allies in Gainesville. The partnership between Immokalee and Gainesville is so strong, in fact, that the day’s activities marked not only the beginning of the Truth Tour, but also the culmination of the city’s annual “CIW week,” a full seven days of local education, activities and action to call for fairness in the fields.
The Tour crew filed its report from the field early this morning, so here it is below, hot off the presses:
After spending the morning with the adult Sunday School class of Trinity United Methodist Church and the combined youth groups of United Church of Gainesville — followed by an official welcome to Gainesville with a thirty-person potluck hosted by the indefatigable Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church — the Fair Food community of Gainesville gathered for a press conference and march to a nearby Publix.
Eighty five supporters packed the foyer of Westminster Presbyterian Church as the CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo and Oscar Otzoy began by explaining what had propelled them to undertake this two-week tour. In a tone steadfast and resolute, Lupe underscored the power of the Fair Food Program in addressing the sexual harassment that has for decades been the “daily bread” of women in the fields. ”Women finally have an effective mechanism to report abuses without fear of retaliation,” she stressed. “But not only that, they can be assured that an assailant will be banned from the industry” — a dramatic departure from a culture long thought to be too deeply entrenched to uproot. This, she explained, is what Publix actively chooses to undermine.
Sam Trickey (below) of the National Farm Worker Ministry took the mic next, addressing the biblical passage, “the poor will always be with you.” The poor will be always with us, he explained, because it will always in someone’s short-term interest to exploit others. But over the long-term, the oppressor can never come out ahead, as their actions fly in the face of the “biblical witness of justice.”
Next up was Father Les Singleton (below) of the Church of the Mediator, who brought with him a purchase he had just made at Publix: a bag of Publix Fair Trade coffee. Reading directly from the side of the bag, he let the hypocrisy of the written statement speak for itself: “Fair trade is only fair. Fair trade prices help small farmers provide employees with liveable wages and working conditions, which fosters the same values that we do: community, wellbeing and a nicer world.”
And then, just as the press conference closed, the skies opened and a downpour commenced. But the now-100 gathered didn’t skip a beat, setting out toward Publix almost as though they hadn’t noticed the heavy rain. With a sizable contingent from UF’s CHISPAS leading chants, the intrepid marchers kept on for over a mile before arriving at the high-traffic Publix and forming their roving picket. Though colors of newly hand-painted signs bled together and t-shirts soaked through, not even the relentless showers could dampen the crew’s animo.
In fact, resolve only intensified as a delegation of community leaders attempted to speak to Publix management and — in an even harsher than usual variation on the typical snub — management refused to allow even a single emissary to speak. Publix would only accept a letter, they said, knowing very well that a paper letter would have already been turned to pulp beneath the rain. According to a clergy member, they kept cutting off the community leaders and simply repeating, “Thank you for shopping at Publix.”
Upon returning, Rev. Larry Green of Westminster Presbyterian Church addressed the crowd and shared his exasperation with the management’s lack of respect for the delegation. ”They don’t appreciate us as individuals, they don’t appreciate you as workers, and I don’t think they deserve our money any longer.” Agreement rippled through the crowd.
Lupe (below) brought the action to an end with a final appropriate chant: “Ni lluvia, ni viento, detendra este movemiento!” (Neither rain nor wind can deter our movement.)
And as the day came to a close, Gainesville community members congratulated each other on a CIW Week well done and wished the Tour crew well on the rest of the two-week Publix Truth Tour.
You can watch a very nice local TV report on the protest here. And check back soon for the next update from the road, as the Publix Truth Tour hits Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina!