Have you ever given thought to where our food comes from? It's a long process from farm to table, and it all begins with the farm workers. We simply would not have tomatoes in our sandwiches and in our salads, for example, if it were not for these hard-working souls. Farm workers have been among the lowest paid employees in the job market, many of them living with slave-like conditions: long hours in the hot sun with little pay and few breaks, sexual harassment and rape in the fields, manipulation, coersion and control.
Imagine if you had to wake up at the crack of dawn, long before the sun rises, to make sure your child was dressed and organized for the babysitter by 4:30 in the morning. After dropping off your child, you'd make your way to the bus that you'd sit in an uncomfortable seat for the next two hours, dozing if you could to catch a few more prescious Zzzzzzz's. You'd arrive in the parking lot of the farm fields, only to be wait an extra two or three hours for the dew to dry, so you could begin the back-breaking work of picking tomaotes, loading them into big buckets, hauling them over your head onto a dump truck. These workers repeat this back-breaking work over and over again, until every muscle and bone in your body ached. You'd do this for .50 for every 32-pound bucket. And there's more:
You'd live in a trailer with many other families because the rent is too high to be able to afford a place of your own. There are farm workers who are homeless, too. In this documentary from Crystal Brunton, a minister from Northwest Church in Orlando, Florida, as well as a mother to three, and an abolitionist, you'll see that exploitation and slavery has been an issue in the lives of tomato farm workers in our own country.
Check out this short video, Immokalee: Slavery in America's Tomato Fields. It's a teeny tiny video that packs a punch. Here's the scoop:
Many farm owners once recruited migrant workers who were homeless. These homeless workers, vulnerable and in need of a home and money to provide for food and necessities, have been treated horribly by some farm workers. Back in 2008, two homeless workers were promised great work on the farms. Their shoes would be confiscated each night, so they could not run away. There was a patrolman who would make sure the workers could not leave the farm at night. These homeless men would be given things like cigarettes and alcohol, yet they'd have to pay off their debts. Eventually, these men were able to flee and got themselves safely to Miami. Thankfully, the ways of old are changing.
Thanks to organizations like the Fair Food Alliance and International Justice Mission, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has launched one of the most successful human rights programs in our time that has literally been eradicating modern day slavery in Florida's tomato fields. Since the Fair Food Program began in the 1990s, several grocery store and fast-food restaurant chains have stepped up to the plate to show their love and respect for the tomato farm workers. Organizations like Tace Bell, Subway, McDonald's, and Burger King, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and most recently Stop & Shop have agreed to pay the hard-wroking farm workers an additional penny per pound, so that farm workers can live with dignity and respect. With this Fair Food Program in place, the farm workers no longer have to rely on charity to get by in their lives.
Sadly, Wendy's and Publix have been asked over and over again - since 2009 - to sign on for the Fair Food Program. Over and over again, Wenndy's and Publix have refused to get on board. The Fair Food Alliance is hitting the road on March 2nd, 2016 with the Voice for Workers Tour and is asking student sacross the country to write Valentine's Day cards to the Wendy's Corporation. This Valentin'es Day, you can break up with Wendy's by sending them a Valentine. If they really do care about what's going on in their supply chains, aske Wedny's to show the tomato farm workers a little more love, a little more respect and dignity, by agreeing to pay the extra penny per pound for all those tomatoes they buy. Stand alongside the other fast-food giants, Tace Bell, Subway, McDonald's and Burger King and say "No!" to tomatoes that are purchased where rape, sexual harassment, and other socail injustices are taking place.
Students across America, please join us in shining the light on the darkness that exists at Wendy's. Learn how you can make a difference by sending a Valentine. Organize friends in your school and town, bring the Valentine's down to your local Wendy's, and send videos out on social media. Here's the plan....
This Valentine’s Day Weekend, take action alongside Fair Food allies from coast to coast by submitting short videos to Wendy’s on social media! Be sure to include your name, where you’re joining from and why you’re breaking up with Wendy’s this V-Day. Upload your 30-second video to Facebook or Instagram, or send it over firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to tag @Wendys, @sfalliance, and @alliance4ff!