Thousands March for Florida Tomato Farmworkers’ Rights

Dozens of New Yorkers headed to Florida last weekend and joined thousands of people from across the country for the final days of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ 2-week, 200-mile March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food, calling for fair wages for Florida’s farmworkers.

Dozens of New Yorkers headed to Florida last weekend – not for a spring break jaunt, but to demand justice in the food chain. A delegation from the global anti-hunger and poverty organization WhyHunger, based in Manhattan, and a bus organized by New York-based Community Farmworker Alliance joined thousands of people from across the country for the final days of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ 2-week, 200-mile March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food, calling for fair wages for Florida’s farmworkers.

For over a decade, the community-based, farmworker-led Coalition, better known as CIW, has been organizing farmworkers and their allies to demand an end to abuse, discrimination, wage theft, and even modern-day slavery in the tomato fields of Immokalee, Florida. The march called on Publix supermarket, the largest grocer in the southeast, to join 11 leading food companies, including McDonald’s and Whole Foods, in supporting the innovative Fair Food Program. The program is a collaboration between Florida’s tomato growers, retailers and farmworkers to ensure humane labor standards and a penny-per-pound premium to help lift workers out of abject poverty.

The march was a protest, but also a celebration. Hundreds of yellow flags proclaiming “Nuevo Dia para los Trabajadores” invited Publix to join the “new day” that has dawned for farmworkers under the Fair Food Program. Music and lively chants accompanied and motivated marchers along access roads and strip malls, through trailer parks and developments of foreclosed homes, through downtowns and under trees draped with Spanish moss. If you couldn’t make it to Florida, you can experience some of the joy and inspiration by supporting CIW’s campaign against Wendy’s here in NYC at the Pigtail March for Justice on April 14—and follow the progress on Twitter with #FreedomCannotRest.

Siena Chrisman is the Programs Communications Manager at WhyHunger. She lives in Brooklyn.

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