Today we hosted a lunch at church for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies.
Most of the fresh tomatoes served at US restaurants and sold in supermarkets October through April come from Florida, with a large percentage of those coming from the area around the town of Immokalee. For the past 20+ years Immokalee pickers have banded together to overcome low and stagnant wages, sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, and documented cases of involuntary unpaid labor – otherwise known as slavery. The tomato fields of Florida have been called ground zero for modern day slavery.
But this is changing, slowly. To date, 15 corporations have signed on to the CIW initiated Fair Food Program. The list includes companies one might expect such as Chipotle and Whole Foods, but also Taco Bell (the first to sign on in 2005 after a national boycott), McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and the mighty Wal-Mart. Through the Fair Food Program, workers are paid an additional penny per pound that they pick, and a human rights based Code of Conduct is implemented on the tomato farms. The Washington Post has referred to the Fair Food Program as “One of the great human rights success stories of our day.”
I could go on, but basically, these workers are heroes. Many faith groups support the CIW and today CMC got in on a small piece of the action.
With the current Wendy’s campaign, Columbus is now ground zero for CIW’s ongoing efforts. Earlier this morning folks from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Nashville, Ann Arbor, Florida. and Columbus gathered outside Wendy’s headquarters in Dublin for the Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Three CIW representatives were able to attend and speak to the stockholders, describing the Fair Food Program and calling on Wendy’s – the last holdout of major fast food companies – to join.
Afterwards folks caravanned down to CMC and shared a lunch here. Despite the disappointing – although expected – response from Wendy’s, it was a lively atmosphere. We heard several reports of the ongoing work of CIW, ate excellent Mexican food, and enjoyed one another’s company around the table, making new connections. About 10 CMC folks joined in for the meal, and several others attended the morning action.
The parables of Jesus are populated with workers and farmers going about their daily labor in the fields. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a modern day parable in which “The kingdom of God is like…” Today’s feast was a small taste of the Great Banquet, the Great Fiesta, yet to come.