Having driven from South Florida to within miles of the Canadian border in less than 72 hours, the East Leg crew was happy to spend an entire day in the same state. And what a day it was!! Day Four was marked by some serious action in the streets of Kalamazoo...
...and dynamic presentations in the classrooms of Ann Arbor. In this photo, one half of the East Leg tour crew addresses a history class of University of Michigan students about the reality of agricultural work and the corporate food system in the 21st century. For nearly an hour, students and workers engaged in a lively question and answer session, which opened the eyes of many potential McDonald's consumers to the links between the fast-food giant and sweatshop conditions in Florida's fields.
| | From large lecture halls to intimate seminars, the tour participants encountered students and professors eager to hear first-hand accounts from farmworkers about their experiences in the fields and the latest developments in the fight for fair food. | |
Of course, after a morning of education and reflection, it was time to put some simple ideas of justice and dignity into action. Regrettably, there are still some people in the world, not to mention higher-ups in the fast-food industry, that find these simple ideas to be threatening concepts. So it was with a clear sense of purpose that a delegation of CIW and Student/Farmworker Alliance members, as well as local students from Migrant and Immigrant Rights Awareness (MIRA) and Students Organizing for Labor Equality (SOLE), delivered a signed letter demanding real rights for farmworkers to a local installation of the Golden Arches.
| | This enterprising member of McDonald's Rapid Response Team was waiting at the door for the human rights delegation, almost as if he knew by some sixth sense that we were coming. Or maybe the corporate office just checked our website. In either case, he received the letter and then reminded the delegation that we were on "public property" and therfore risking trespassing charges. But he didn't have to tell us twice to leave because we had a hot date in western Michigan! | |
Just 90 minutes later, the East Leg rolled into Kalamazoo where a local storm has been brewing around McDonald's for its alleged discrimination against poor and homeless city residents. At the forefront of this fight is the Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network (KHAN), a dynamic grassroots organization that turned out in full force to support the road warriors from Immokalee. In a span of just minutes, the protest swelled to over 50 people occupying a sidewalk on a busy downtown street humming with 5:00 rush hour traffic. Even exiting McDonald's customers were happy to take flyers from the animated picketers, much to the chagrin of the increasingly camera-shy corporate advance team perched inside the restaurant.
After an hour in front of the restaurant, another delegation was assembled to deliver the same letter and message to McDonald's: nothing less than real rights for farmworkers will do. The determined Kalamazoo delegation consisted of Western Michigan University students and representatives from KHAN, plus workers and allies from Immokalee.
| | There certainly wasn't any finesse to McDonald's response to the Kalamazoo delegation. Instead, the police in the parking lot took their cue and immediately escorted the delegation out of the restaurant, but not before one particularly angry member of the corporate advance team snatched the letter and crumbled it up. Strikingly odd behavior for a company that publicly claims to be motivated by the highest standards of social accountability...
| | Afterwards, the East Leg crew retired to the Swords into Plowshares Peace Center for a wonderful enchilada dinner organized by the Peace Center, KHAN, Latino Student Alliance, and Progressive Student Alliance of Western Michigan University. Before dinner, our wonderful host, Amolia, narrated a trip through the produce supply chain, reflecting on the origins of the fresh vegetables we were about to consume and connecting that impending consumption to the lives of real women and men who work -- often invisibly -- in the fields of the U.S. Following dinner, the CIW gave an in-depth presentation on the McDonald's campaign and recruited some new participants for the April 1 march and rally in Chicago, IL! | |
To wrap up Day 4-- not to mention a sweet trifecta of letter delieveries and delegations at McDonald's across the state of Michigan -- a group of Immokalee workers and Western Micighan students paid a quick night-time visit to the McDonald's on Western's campus. The drop-off was an unmitigated success, followed by a round of enthusiastic high-fives all around! It's safe to say that Michigan allies are definitely ready to stand by the CIW in the fight against the Golden Arches.
Next stop: South Bend, IN!
Click here to see the West Leg report!
Click here to see the Central Leg report!