Daily Reports from the Hunger Strike - Check out the reports below for a
day-by-day log of events as the historic hunger strike at Taco Bell
Day 10: Religious leaders intervene, hunger strikers break fast! Click here to read a
great wrap-up article from the Naples Daily News "Farmworker protest passed on to
religious groups" -- And... check out the VIDEO from the final day, including great
footage of the locked-door reception provided a delegation of religious leaders and CIW
members by Taco Bell!
As Day 10 broke in front of Taco Bell headquarters, everything
seemed normal (only sunnier...), just another day at the
hunger strike site,...
... another chapter in the David and Goliath story of the
Taco Bell boycott,...
... another battle in the fight for fair food bringing together
... and farmworkers from Immokalee, where Taco Bell buys
its tomatoes while turning a blind eye to the human rights
abuses that are the daily reality of workers in Florida's
But Day 10 was to be different. On this day, the hunger
strikers were to end their protest.
Heeding the calls of religious leaders
to end their fast -- with the promise that their communities
would join the workers in their struggle -- the strikers
decided to break their fast by breaking bread with religious
leaders in an Ash Wednesday ceremony outside Taco Bell HQ.
In a letter to the strikers, Cardinal
Roger Mahony of Los Angeles wrote: "Your current
hunger strike has been a clear sign of your commitment and
resolve to seek a peaceful settlement to this current stalemate.
You are to be commended for your commitment and dedication
in leading this hunger strike. It has been a source of strength
for other workers around the country who struggle to provide
a decent existence for their families..."
The religious leaders -- from Cardinal Mahony to the National
Council of Churches, representing 50 million people across
the country -- were concerned about the hunger strikers'
health following the hospitalization of three strikers during
the prolonged fast.
In his letter, Cardinal Mahony continued:
"As the Lenten season approaches and out of
concern for your health, I urge you to conclude this fast.
In turn, I encourage Catholics to stand with you by fasting
during Lent as a sign of solidarity with you in prayer that
you soon see a successful conclusion to this campaign. As
a sign of good will, I encourage the leadership of Taco
Bell to meet with you in the coming days to seek a fair
and peaceful solution to this dispute."
And so, the Ash Wednesday service that was to be a celebration
of the hunger strike became a formal ceremony marking the
end of the fast and the beginning of a new phase of the
Of course, the Cuauhtemoc Aztec Dancers
-- whose faithful presence and support throughout the hunger
strike raised the strikers' spirits through many a cold,
rainy night -- were on hand to open the ceremony and to
sanctify the site.
But today, they would be joined by an ecumenical gathering
of pastors -- from the Presbyterian Church USA (Noelle Damico,
left, an indispensable ally throughout the 10-day
fast, and Ricardo Moreno, right, of Los Angeles Emmanuel
Presbyterian Church), the United Chuch of Christ, the United
Methodist Church, and the Catholic Church -- brought together
to honor the strikers and pledge their support in the future.
Also on hand, of course, were union leaders
from the UFCW and SEIU, both of whom were key allies as
well throughout the hunger strike.
The ceremony attracted the LA and national press and supporters
from throughout Southern California.
Francisca Cortez (shown here) and Jeremias Lopez (not in
picture) of the CIW, spoke on behalf of the hunger strikers.
But the heart of the ceremony was undoubtedly the breaking
of the bread -- a symbolic act that at once ended the strikers'
fast and forged the bonds of community between the workers
and the religious leaders joining them in their fight.
And though the bread was eagerly awaited, and shared, by
the hunger strikers (and was, by many of the strikers' accounts,
the most delicious food they can remember ever
... it was also a deeply emotional moment for the strikers.
The emotion was born of many different aspects of the moment
-- the taste, feel, and smell of food again... the sense
of a very definite end to what will certainly be an unforgettable
experience in all the strikers' lives... the warmth of solidarity
and heartfelt concern from allies drawn by the hunger strike
to step into the fight and to stand with us in the struggle.
The power of all those things coming together in one moment
overwhelmed even the most battle-worn of the strikers.
Following the breaking of the bread, a delegation of strikers
and religious leaders, accompanied by the press, approached
Taco Bell headquarters. Their objective was simple and peaceful
-- to hand copies of the religious leaders' letters, along
with 2000 cards signed by workers in Immokalee supporting
the boycott -- to a representative of Taco Bell. [The writing
along the top of the left-hand side of the wall, barely
discernable in this photo, reads "Leadership Way,"
by the way...]
But, to no one's surprise, Taco Bell security personnel,
upon seeing the delegation on its way to the front doors,
scrambled to lock the doors and refused the workers and
religious leaders entry. As a result, the delegation was
obliged to pass its message underneath the locked doors,
leaving their letters and cards in a pile on the floor in
the atrium of Taco Bell's heaquarters.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to know where their
cards and letters will end up.
Here's one more shot of the scene, just to make sure that
Taco Bell's response to the workers and religious leaders
is clear... Note the classic security stance of the man
on the left -- hands crossed and folded in front of the
body, feet spread shoulder wide, chin out... the very embodiment
of Taco Bell's response to the CIW's call for fair food
all along, and now their response to religious leaders,
Before leaving, the delegation reflected on their reception
and prayed together that Taco Bell would overcome its fear
and join them in a solution to the boycott.
And so, the CIW left Taco Bell headquarters with new allies
in the fight against Taco Bell, new allies with new determination
and commitment to see the campaign through, having now felt
the sting of Taco Bell's disdain themselves, the same disdain
that Immokalee workers have been shown for nearly two years.
The press on hand for the incident, including this reporter
from the Los Angeles Times, surely were taken aback at Taco
Bell's inhospitable response.
To close the service, Father Ramon of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Church in Santa Ana performed the imposition of ashes for
the strikers and others in the gathering...
... and Lucas Benitez of the CIW added closing words of
thanks and reflection on behalf of the strikers. "Through
non-violent action, Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil
rights movement were able to force the American public to
face the reality and essential evil of racism, making figures
like Bull Connor the face of racism and the focus of the
need for change. Today, with this humble action, we have
focused public attention on Taco Bell and on its disregard
for the inhumane conditions in its supply chain. Today,
Taco Bell is the face of corporate indifference towards
the exploitation of workers whose undervalued labor is the
very foundation of their wealth."
And finally, after 10 long days, the strikers broke their
fast in earnest, with a fine spread of soup, rice, beans,
tortillas, horchata, and fruit provided by families of students
from Santa Ana, student members of MEChA Santa Ana College
that like so many MEChA members throughout California during
this action gave their hearts and souls to the workers from
And finally, before we go, a couple of more photos to share,
photos that capture the essence of this hunger strike:
Above, a moment captured of the long,
cold, wet, hungry days that challenged the strikers' spirits,
but, in the end, strengthened their resolve.
And here, the warm, true building of human community, a
human community forged of sacrifice and shared struggle.
For 10 days, the workers' community constructed
outside Taco Bell headquarters posed a daily challenge to
the cold, status-driven, striving individualism that is
the lifeblood of corporations like Taco Bell. For ten days,
Taco Bell executives stepped over farmworkers fasting on
their doorstep on their way to work without so much as a
second thought. But, ultimately, second thoughts will come,
and when they do, community will prevail over corporate
Day 8 Hunger Strikers say "¡No Nos Moveran!" (We will not be moved!)
Plus, check out this radio interview from Labor Radio with striker Gerardo Reyes...
(the interview is in Real Audio format, and the story begins about 1/2 way into the report)
The hunger strikers entered the second week of their fast,
and despite the return of the cold...
... and the growing fatigue of the prolonged strike...
... the strikers' determination and confidence remained
Visitors continued to join fasters at the site outside Taco
... including this adorable little visitor, the daughter
of one of the Aztec dancers who have been steady allies
since the beginning of the strike.
And as the day stretched on, the hunger strikers followed
coverage of the campaign and prepared for another cold night
on the pavement.
Day 5 - Over a thousand throng to hunger strike site at Taco Bell headquarters in
solidarity with fasters!
In a powerful show of support for the hunger strikers' cause,
more than a thousand people crowded into the hunger strike
site on a Friday afternoon, and had a day they wouldn't
soon forget. Here, JG & Havikenhayes played the song
they dedicated to the hunger strikers -- "Hunger Days"
-- which shook Taco Bell headquarters with its chorus of
"Yo no quiero Taco Bell, no quiero Taco Bell"!
The flood of support overwhelmed the hunger strikers, who
gathered at the front of the stage to show their appreciation
to the crowd. It was a day filled with emotion for the strikers,
who had endured not only 5 days of fasting but days of cold,
rainy weather and seemingly endless harassment by the Irvine
But as the hunger strikers started their day they were greeted
by deep blue skies -- a beautiful day for the dramatic confrontation
of community versus corporations that was to come (and a pretty
good indication of where the powers that be
stand on that conflict...).
The morning was filled with protesters preparing some incredible
art, using every material available -- including their own
bodies -- to convey their message.
As the rally approached, people came streaming into the
hunger strike site, some from the LA area, some from Northern
California, and others from as far as Portland, Oregon,
and Tucson, Arizona!
The procession of allies continued to grow over the final
hour before the rally was to begin...
... with the protest art arriving at the scene -- like this
march of puppets prepared by the folks at Art and Revolution
-- the art seemed to grow right along with the crowd.
By the time the rally started, the hunger strike site had
been converted into a sea of posters, puppets, and colorful
flags -- the banners of a community gathering its strength
and spirit to raise its voice for hope and against a world
ruled by unchecked corporate power.
The hunger strikers were called to the front of the stage,
recognized for their sacrifice and and their courage in
taking their fight from one of the country's poorest communities
right to the doorstep of one of the country's most powerful
After which, some of the most energetic strikers led the
crowd in cheers for "Justicia".
And powerful, silent theater -- inspired by the Brazilian
peasant movement's traditional "mistica" form
of popular theater -- told the story of Mexican and Guatemalan
peasants uprooted from their communities by poverty, forced
into a desperate migration to Florida's tomato fields.
The theater drew the clear connection between farmworker
poverty and fast-food profits, as consumers brought Taco
Bell executives piles of money while the workers picked
bucket after bucket of tomatoes. But the theater ended when
the workers and consumers united in a hunger strike and
forced the Taco Bell executives to the table. As the theater
came to a close, workers and allies distributed cups of
water to the crowd in a symbolic joining with the hunger
Some great speakers filled the program, including Eric Schlosser,
author of "Fast Food Nation," who told the crowd,
"We are not here today to bring an end to Taco Bell,
but to bring an end to Taco Bell's exploitation of workers.
As long as Taco Bell refuses to pay one penny more so that
its tomato pickers can earn a decent wage, we as consumers
must refuse to pay Taco Bell a single penny more."
The author had a few fans of his own who made it to the
rally, getting autographs for their copies of "Fast
Food Nation" backstage before Eric headed out (with
a hunger striker t-shirt on his shoulder).
And speaking of speakers, Lucas Benitez of the CIW -- following
five days drinking only water -- gave an incredibly moving
speech on behalf of all the hunger strikers. Invoking the
spirits of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Cesar
Chavez, Lucas' speech presented the hunger strike as a non-violent
force of change tied to the history of the past century's
most powerful social movements- an irresistible force destined
to, sooner rather than later, bring human rights to the
fields of Florida and the fast-food industry that has spread
across the globe.
A full roster of speakers continued, highlighted by people
like Tanis Ybarra of the United Farm Workers (above), Anuradha
Mittal of Food First...
And Stephen Bartlett and Mike Moon, family farmers and representatives
of Agricultural Missions and Family Farm Defenders respectively,
who fasted all week with the farmworkers and presented a
statement of support from the Family Farm Coalition.
The whole program wouldn't have been possible, though, without
our incredible, powerful, rocking MC's -- Jaribu Hill, of
the Mississippi Workers Center, and Pedro, a student ally
from Cal Poly Pomona. There aren't words to describe the
job they did all day, only thanks.
Between speakers, Havikenhayes kept the momentum building
with some fine work on the turntables.
And as good as the speakers were, the music may have even
been better. A local group from Santa Ana from the Centro
Cultural de Mexico had people dancing...
while LA favorite Slowrider brought the crowd pressing to
the stage with their politically-charged set.
Between the bands and Havikandhayes' DJ'ing, the crowd never
And the crowd spanned the spectrum from young...
... like these two animated supporters, and the young man
on the left who fasted all day in solidarity with the hunger
to the older folks in the crowd...
who filled vans and traveled to side with the hunger strikers
against Taco Bell, and took some time to share the wisdom
of their years with younger activists.
But in the end, it was the hunger strikers' day, a day to
celebrate their remarkable courage, dedication, and commitment
to the cause for long-overdue justice in this country's
Day 4 - The momentum builds on the eve of the big rally!
Day 3- 4: Public support swells as the hunger strikers hit the airwaves...
plus, check out this great video of the Cuatehmoc Aztec Dancers!
The hunger strikers entered their fourth day of fasting
Thursday, bouyed by a growing wave of community support.
Max Perez of the CIW talks here at KUCI radio in Irvine,
one of many radio interviews by hunger strikers throughout
the day, including a great piece on Free Speech Radio News
on Pacifica Radio, another on KPFK in Los Angeles, and a
45 minute interview on Wednesday night on the nationally
syndicated"Cucuy de la Tarde" show with Lucas
Benitez of the CIW, which reaches tens of millions of listeners
from LA to Miami. Cucuy himself was so moved by the hunger
strikers' cause that he promised to join the Friday rally
outside of Taco Bell headquarters!
Meanwhile, back at the hunger strike site, street support
for the strikers also swelled over the course of the day...
... while the strikers passed the hours trying to stay warm
and playing dominoes -- a farmer/famrworker match here, where
the farmer came out on top (as always...).
And by Wednesday night, the action outside Taco Bell's offices
was really moving...
Day 2-3: The Hunger Strike strike continues..
Day two of the Hunger Strike started
with new signs and old rain...
Including the main sign declaring the
Hunger Strike's purpose to traffic passsing by Taco Bell
corporate headquarters: "Taco Bell Profits from Farmworker
The cold rain made for a
but the hunger striker spirits
Day two gave way to day three...
and the rain kept coming
By evening, the weather had cleared...
Just in time for a candlelight vigil
in support of the strikers -- an omen for clear days ahead
and the gathering strength of the hunger strike.
Hunger strike -- Day 1: See the video!
After three long days on the road, the
hunger strikers' caravan made it to Irvine and Taco Bell
headquarters -- impressive as always in its opulence, opulence
made possible by poverty wages and cheap commodity prices...
A point that the hunger strikers quickly set about making
to the people of Irvine who drove by the strikers' encampment.
Monday morning 100 fasters and
supporters began one of the largest hunger strikes in US
history, 24 hours a day, outside the global headquarters
of Taco Bell, the fast-food giant.
And the hunger strikers got some
great news, by the way, to start the day, as students at
Middle Tennessee State University officially removed Taco
Bell from their campus, making it the 14th school to "Boot
First things first, though...as the hunger
strikers got a thorough check-up from medical personnel
in solidarity with the action...
Following the check-ups, the day really
got started with a rousing educational session -- thanks
to friends at United for a Fair Economy -- using tomatoes
to represent wealth and examining how the concentration
of wealth in the US has become the most lopsided of all
western countries over the past two decades -- a result
mirrored in the fields, where farmworker wages have lost
nearly half their real value since 1980 while the fast food
companies that benefit from their labor -- like Taco Bell
-- have undergone an expansion unprecedented in US food
And so Day 1 began, and the protest continued
well into the night at the encampment, despite a cold rain
that fell throughout the afternoon.
While elsewhere in LA and the rest of
the country, the first of more than a hundred solidarity
actions began. From Florida to Washington State, communities
are recognizing the hunger strikers' courage and commitment
and joining the cause to make fast food fair food.
Support for the hunger strike has generated
a good deal of press. Be sure to check out the links below
to see the latest media reports on the strike.
the great VIDEO from Day 1 by clicking here
On the Road: 1,600
Miles and Counting...The
Hunger Strike Caravan keeps rolling toward Taco Bell headquarters!
February 21 - Immokalee workers
and their allies covered a lot of ground yesterday -- from
Chatanooga, TN, to Oklahoma City, OK, to be exact -- on their
way to Taco Bell corporate headquarters and the unprecedented
hunger strike, set to begin on Feb. 24th. But while the caravan
made its way across this vast country, the 75 workers and
allies riding the caravan covered a little ground of their
Report: Yesterday's story isn't best told
with pictures, but we did manage to capture a sense of what
has become a remarkable, rolling human rights school in
a few video shorts that you've got to see!
With discussions ranging from modern-day slavery to the
struggle for Indigenous rights, it was an inspiring day
of shared experience and analysis that lifted all the caravaners
high above our everyday lives and filled us with a powerful
sense of the urgency of our fight. Click on the links below
to see the:
On Thursday, Feb. 20, 75 workers and allies
left Immokalee for Irvine, CA, crossing the country on the
way to an unprecedented hunger strike outside Taco Bell headquarters.
The hunger strikers are stepping up the
Coalition of Immokalee Workers' boycott campaign, demanding
that the fast-food giant use its influence to fundamentally
improve the sweatshop conditions in the fields where its tomatoes
are grown and picked.
The hunger strike begins on February 24th
-- 3 days and counting!...
Click here to see
the video from Day 1
And check out the Palm
Beach Post article on the hunger strikers' departure
On Sunday, hunger strikers met for a day-long internal organizing
workshop -- the last of several over the past months --
building a common vision of the purpose of the coming action
and finalizing plans for the trip.
Wednesday night was the final meeting before the 5:00 am
departure the next morning, and the CIW office overflowed
with strikers, materials for the trip, and press covering
the pending departure.
The gravity of the action was clear
in the faces of the strikers and the intense discussions that
distinguished the evening from so many other weekly meetings.
And finally, the day arrived for strikers to load their
bags and provisions for the trip...
grab a seat on the bus...
and head up I-75 for the first leg of the three-day voyage
across the country. First stop - a pancake breakfast with
the Knights of Columbus...
followed by the highlight of the day, a visit with our very
dear friend, Bishop John Nevins of the Diocese of Venice,
who once again opened up his heart and blessed our group,
wishing us a safe and successful journey, and assuring us
that justice will ultimately prevail.
With a personal message for each of us...
and a final surprise -- donning the hunger strike t-shirt
right there on the spot!...
Bishop Nevins made it clear for all to see that his heart
lies truly with those struggling for economic and social
And with that powerful dose of solidarity, we boarded the
bus and continued on our way, stopping in Atlanta for dinner
later in the day with our friends from Food Not Bombs and
staying the night in Chatanooga, Tennessee.
Tomorrow: Memphis, Little Rock, and Oklahoma
Click here for the
video from Day 1