The Workers Voice Tour organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) stopped by the University of Florida campus in Gainesville on Friday march 11th. A group of roughly 60 people, a combination of both CIW activists and UF students, gathered and then marched to the Wendy’s restaurant located on the Gators’ campus promoting their message to boycott the burger chain for their reluctance in signing the Fair Food agreement. The Fair Food agreement already signed by the likes of Wal-Mart, Taco Bell and Aramark seeks to provide better pay and conditions for farm workers in towns like Immokalee, Florida and all over the country.
“Its time for them [Wendy’s] to sign with the Fair Food program,” said Gerardo Reyes, a farm worker and CIW organizer featured in the Food Chains documentary. “We are with a lot of students from the university and organizations like Chispas and other organizations that are here to support, also from the community and some people that have come here from other city’s to support this stop which is part of the tour that we have started a few days ago declaring a national boycott against the corporation of Wendy’s for not doing the right thing for farm workers in Florida.”
Workers in Immokalee have for years been subjected to horrendous working conditions resulting in work place abuses, denial of restroom and water breaks and in some cases beatings. The CIW’s Fair Food Program is a unique partnership between farmworkers, retail food companies and farmers. Their goal is to ensure humane wages and working conditions for all the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. The New York Times called the program “the best workplace monitoring program” in the United States.
“Were asking corporations to pay a penny and a half more per pound for every pound they buy from Florida and now the East Coast. We are also demanding they condition their purchasing to the implementation of the Fair Food Program. To guarantee that there are rights for workers that are protected, like the right to complain without retaliation, the right to work free of sexual harassment, of violence, and intimidation and in the extreme to eliminate situations of slavery and we have been able to successfully stop slavery on its tracks due to the implementation of the program, but Wendy’s instead of supporting that choose to basically punish they’re suppliers of tomatoes from Florida by stopping their buying from them and going to buy from Mexico where conditions are even worse,” Reyes said.
To date 14 corporations have joined the program that has transformed the tomato industry. In 2008 democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders visited the town of Immokalee and saw for himself the conditions its residents where forced to endure. In an effort to shine a light on Immokalee as well as attract Hispanic voters to Feel The Bern, the Sanders campaign using a new strategy released a five-minute documentary detailing the plight of a mother and farm worker in Immokalee. (https://youtu.be/6XXEHZsAkR0) The ad, in Spanish with English subtitles, was aired on Univision, cost several hundred thousand dollars and will continue to air nationally on Univision as well as local affiliated stations in Miami, Orlando, Phoenix and Tucson. The strategy is a non-traditional advertising model based on buying an expensive large block of advertising time. The ad debuted last Thursday night in prime time on Univision and is expected to reach millions.
The 2016 Workers Voice Tour concluded in Palm Beach, Florida on Sunday March 12th but their boycott campaign against Wendy’s will continue. To find out more information on the CIW visit them online at www.ciw-online.org