Faithful Risk: Fast for Fair Food
I want to invite you into an experience. Next week, I will answer the call to join members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in a Fast for Fair Food at the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida. The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian, and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. I have been privileged to serve on the board of their faith-based ally, Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida. Publix, a community-oriented grocery chain (and also one of our nation’s largest corporations), has refused the CIW’s request that they pay an additional penny per pound of tomatoes and sign the Fair Food Code of Conduct to ensure fair treatment in Florida fields. I am fed up with them ignoring the Coalition, as well as my own attempts to reach out and have a conversation. For over two years, CIW and its allies have asked Publix to come to the table and talk about the tomatoes they buy. Yet Publix ignores us.
So at the beginning of March, we fasters will go without food for 6 days to call out Publix for their treatment of farmworkers. I have been at countless faith witnesses, chanting, “Publix, shame on you, farm-workers are people, too!” We have also chanted in spanish, “No estamos solos!” (We are not alone!).
In fact, Trader Joe’s just came on board, making Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s the first grocery chains to sign on to the Fair Food Code of Conduct with the CIW. Coupled with other major advancements in agreements with Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, grocery stores’ pennies per pound would make a remarkable difference to the workers in the fields, perhaps leading into a future where farm workers attain a living wage (the last real increase was over thirty years ago). If chains like Stop-n-Shop, Kroger’s, Giant, Martin’s, and others signed on, quality of life could change for farmworkers. Unbelievably, the last case of slavery in Florida fields was 2009, and cases are still pending.
This is where you come in. While I am at Publix headquarters for 6 days, I want you to deliver a manager letter to your local grocery store chain. Ask the grocery store to come to the table with the CIW, pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes, and sign on to the Fair Food Code of Conduct for safe Florida fields. I have witnessed how the fair food premium makes a difference in a person’s paycheck. But it’s still not a living wage when large grocery chains won’t participate.
Let me know of any actions you do in solidarity during the Fast for Fair Food and don’t forget the power of a good “pray-in” in the produce aisle! I believe this nonviolent, loving Fast for Fair Food can help bring us closer to Publix signing on. The spirit of Love will be among us, with your prayers and your support.
PS: I will be posting on Facebook and Twitter during the fast if you care to stay updated. Find me at @Allison_Farnum. Your encouragement and prayers are welcome!