Coalition of Immokalee Workers

McDonald's Truth Tour 2006:
The Real Rights Tour!



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The big day had arrived, and Truth Tour crew members, including Mike Moon of the Family Farm Defenders (center, hat) -- a small farmer from Wisconsin whose participation in the tour underscores the common cause of family farmers and farmworkers whose lives are being squeezed by the power of giants like McDonald's and WalMart to demand impossibly low prices for the produce they buy -- put the finishing touches on the signs that would take our message to the streets of Chicago.

Then the hour of our departure finally arrived, and with our own "Ronaldo the Clown" in tow (left, with a decidely serious message for his comrade in greasepaint, Ronald...), the 2006 Truth Tour crew left the church and headed out to the Plaza Tenochtitlan in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago to meet up with allies and begin the 5-mile march on the "Rock and Roll" McDonald's, the company's flagship restaurant in the heart of Chicago's shopping district.

The marchers gathered at the Plaza for blessings for the coming march, including a traditional Aztec dance ceremony...

... and encouraging words from Bishop John Manz (right) and Father Brendan Curran of Chicago.

Over the next hour, allies arrived at the Plaza, many driving hundreds of miles to get to Chicago, including friends above from MEChA at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota...

... until it was time to go... And the 2006 McDonald's Truth Tour March was on the road, taking the streets of Pilsen!

The marchers' spirits were lifted by the presence of several key allies, including Stewart Acuff, Organizing Director of the AFL-CIO (holding sign, second from right)...

... as well as by a powerful rhythm section that led a number of new chants penned just for our friends at McD's, including such favorites as "Hey McDonald's don't clown around! Pay a living wage or we'll shut you down!," and "Payaso, escucha! El pueblo esta en la lucha!".

Our signs told our story, from the quickly-drawn and straightforward ...

... to the slightly more artistic and clever plays on McDonald's billion-dollar, focus-group-tested, ubiquitous marketing jingles.

But as the march made its way through Chicago and the crowd grew, the march itself became the message...

... a diverse group of people, from farmworkers to everyday consumers, brought together by a common vision of economic justice -- a call for fair wages and human rights, finally, for workers whose exploitation has gone unquestioned for far too long while corporations throughout the food industry have profited from their labor.

Which brings us to Chipotle...

As described in an earlier update from the Truth Tour (Day Four, Madison, WI), Chipotle is a rapidly growing Mexican food chain that is part of the McDonald's family of restaurants. And Chipotle prides itself on what it calls "Food with Integrity" for the strong stand they take on farm animal conditions in their supply chain.

The marchers passed a Chipotle on the march route (above), stopping to focus a few moments of the march energy on the link between McDonald's and the lesser known chain. Later, as the rally, speakers announced the launch of an "aggressive public education campaign" challenging Chipotle to "expand its own 'Food With Integrity' mission to include 'Work With Dignity' for farmworkers who harvest its tomatoes by partnering with the CIW to ensure improved wages and the participation of farmworkers in the protection and advancement of their own rights.

Further, the marchers called on Chipotle
to influence the fast-food giant McDonald’s to join Yum! Brands in working with the CIW for these important human rights advances in the
agri-food industry as a whole.

As the march continued along its five-mile route to the "Rock and Roll" McDonald's, the marchers made contact with tens of thousands of Chicagoans. Whether in their cars or on foot, the people of McDonalds' hometown were introduced to their corporate neighbor in a whole new light, many looking for the first time behind the glittery facade of Happy Meals and the hip new advertising aimed at 18-24 year-olds into the bitter reality of the people who live in grinding poverty and toil in sweatshop conditions to get the food from the fields onto their tables. This family above studied the flyers that conveyed that reality closely, as did thousands of more consumers on this special day.

This young man didn't even need a flyer to know whom he supported in this modern-day David and Goliath story.

Finally, the march arrived -- at least 400 strong -- to its final stop: the "Rock and Roll" McDonald's (promise that will be the last time we use that name...), swarming the sidewalk along two city blocks.

Marchers had some suggestions for additions to the flagship restaurant's famous golden arches...

... that would look nice across the face of the five-story tall monument to thoughtless consumerism...

On this day, the voices of farmworkers were heard loud and clear, breaking decades of silence at the foundation of the fast-food giant's vast enterprise...

... including that of CIW member Lucas Benitez, whose rousing speech opening the rally set the tone for a moving program filled with long-time allies, music, and a tangible sense of hope. You can hear Lucas' speech in a fantastic short video on the march put together by Austin Indymedia -- "Quien sigue" -- by clicking here (have patience, it takes some time to download but is very much worth the wait -- the video gives another dimension to the update that really rounds out the report from this exciting action).

CIW members providing security for the rally got a little carried away by the emotional speeches themselves...

... while the CIW's old friend Olmeca, provided his own unique magic to the ceremonies, improvising when the sound system wouldn't cooperate by turning the entire crowd into one huge, unified, organic beat box.

Melody Gonzales of the Student/Farmworker Alliance gave a powerful speech, letting McDonald's know that, though the burger giant calls the youth market their new "sweet spot," the students and youth that led the Boot the Bell campaign are not willing to let McDonald's
"turn our youth culture into a commodity..."
... while Reverend Noelle Damico, representing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Alliance for Fair Food, spoke movingly of the theology of social justice, her speech serving as a strong reminder to McDonald's of the key role played by so many national faith bodies in the successful, four-year Taco Bell boycott.

As we wrapped up and headed to the Cathedral for a meal and a service, this Chicagoan took time from his work to show the marchers his support.

Click here for more photos from day 7

photos: Jacques-Jean Tiziou

And finally, at the Cathedral, CIW members gathered to thank those who joined them in this historic march, to promise that the CIW will firmly committed to the battle for Fair Food until it is won, and to ask for their continued alliance until that day comes. On the heels of such a powerful march and successful 2006 Truth Tour, the response from the allies was a unanimous "Si se puede!"

* See the video report from the march, "Quien Sigue" by clicking here!

* See the AP report, "McDonald's faces protest over farm wages," in the New York Times by clicking here!