“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it…”

“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis, April 3, 1968

With 20 days to go before the March 5th launch of the Fast for Fair Food, allies planning to join fasters are penning words of support, blog posts, and more…

In an unprecedented show of support ahead of a major Fair Food action, CIW allies from across the country are sending in expressions of solidarity for next month’s Fast for Fair Food.

We will be posting a sample of those words of support from time to time as we approach March 5th and the launch of the six-day fast. Here below is our first installment, a wonderful note from Carol Anderson, a longtime ally and professor of African American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and a short article by Barry Estabrook, food writer and author of the widely-acclaimed book on the Florida tomato industry, Tomatoland. Both will be visiting the fasters over the course of their week-long stay outside Publix headquarters in Lakeland.

From Professor Anderson:

“The decision to fast, to deny one’s body essential nourishment, to turn away from the very sustenance that gives life, can only happen when faced with a soul-crushing oppression that has rendered that very life precarious in the first place. Freedom fighters from Mahatma Gandhi to Anatoly Marchenko fasted to expose brutal systems of oppression. They fasted to make clear that there were no chains, no jails, no retribution strong enough to shackle the quest for dignity and human rights.

The Campaign for Fair Food is in the same spirit. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarized it best. In his journey to shine a klieg light on the horrific labor conditions endured by the sanitation workers in Memphis, King observed, in the last speech of his life, that “When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.” That is the core essence of the Campaign for Fair Food and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.”

From Barry Estabrook (“Tomato workers turn to hunger strike,” 2/14/12):

“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) should be celebrating. Last week Trader Joe’s signed a Fair Food Agreement with the Florida-based labor justice group. The agreement grants basic rights and higher wages to Florida tomato harvesters.

But the celebrations were short-lived. The CIW announced that 50 of its members and their supporters would be going on a fast. For six days, beginning March 5, the Fast for Fair Food will take place at the headquarters of Publix Supermarkets, a $25-billion, Florida-based company that operates more than 1,000 stores in the Southeast.

“We are fasting today so that tomorrow none of our children are forced to surrender their dignity or to suffer hunger just to work,” Darinel Sales, one of the workers who will be taking part, wrote in an email. “We are fasting so that the people in charge of Publix can soften their hearts and sit with us to construct a reality in which prosperity is not based on the blood, sweat, and humiliation of farmworkers”…

… No food conglomerate has an excuse, least of all Florida-based Publix. Not only are the state’s tomato workers its customers, but the Publix website boasts about the firm’s “community involvement,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “commitment to our market areas.” It proclaims itself to be Florida’s “neighborhood grocer.”

Maria Brous, Publix’s director of media and community relations, did not return telephone calls. The company has said in press statements that it would be more than willing to pay a penny more per pound if that amount was included in the price the growers charged, but it refuses to pay pickers directly. (Which is odd because under the Fair Food Agreement the extra penny is, in fact, included in the price.) Slavery, Publix says, should be prosecuted under existing laws. And if labor conditions are too strenuous in the tomato industry, the company thinks workers should simply find another employer.

Like the farm owners in the 1990s, executives at Publix have steadfastly refused all requests to enter into dialogue with the CIW. They would do well to remember the famous words of the philosopher and writer George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” read more

There will be much more to come, as the Fast for Fair Food rapidly approaches!