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“Come away to a deserted place.” —Mark 6:31

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December  2012Watch this powerful video “A Tale of Two Holidays” and sign the Petition inviting Publix Supermarkets to come to the Fair Food Table. Watch the video


Sarasota-area clergy respond

Sunday, September 30th, 2012 clergy and 200 people of faith prayed and then peacefully processed to a Publix store in Sarasota, holding aloft a banner inscribed with Micah 6:8. Read more


Presbyterian Women call on Publix to join the Fair Food program

PW

Over 100 Presbyterian Women witness for Fair Food at a Publix store near Orlando during the Churchwide Gathering.

June  2012 – More than 100 Presbyterian Women joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a local community-based farmworker organization, on Saturday morning to challenge Publix to hear the voices of workers and pay at least a net penny more per pound for tomatoes. This pray-in wanted something that seems so basic—a small increase in farmworkers’ wages and a commitment to fair working conditions, including zero tolerance for modern day slavery. Read more


Mothers unite; join them in calling on Publix to join the Fair Food program

May  2012 – Farmworker mothers and consumer mothers in the Southeast United States have come together from both ends of the supply chain – bound by their universal desire to provide for their families – to unite their voices in inviting Publix to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program.  You can support their call by signing the "Publix: Support Farmworker Mothers" petition here. Please invite others to sign with you! The Petition will be live until June.

View the video of Nely, a farmworker and mother, talking about what life is like during the Fast for Fair Food outside Publix Supermarket headquarters in Lakeland, Florida in March 2012.

Learn more about the Publix Campaign and the PC(USA)’s involvement.


Cover of prism

Tomato Justice

May 2012 – Check out this fabulous article on the Campaign for Fair Food in PRISM, the magazine of Evangelicals for Social Action.  Read this informative and stirring article on how people of faith are joining with the CIW to urge Publix Supermarket to join the Fair Food Program.  Presbyterians have been engaged in every step of the way from the bike pilgrimage, to pray-ins, to the Fast for Fair Food and much more.  Please read and share this article broadly.


Bill Crawfod

The Rev. Bill Crawford, Senior Pastor of Larchmont Ave., Presbyterian Church in Larchmont, NY, courtesy of Interfaith Action

Northeast Presbyterians Rally at Ahold-owned Grocery Chains (Stop n Shop, Giant and Martins)

April 2012 – From April 12-17 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers came north to join up with Ahold customers of faith and conscience.  During the Northeast Tour which kicked off during Passover in Boston at the headquarters of Stop n Shop, Presbyterians turned out in droves to call on the Dutch-owned supermarket giant to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program.  We also paid a call on Chipotle, calling on the fast-food company to join the Fair Food Program and live up to its “food with integrity” motto.  View photos and updates below.

Boston 4/12/12; click here

Philadelphia, 4/14/12; click here

New York City and White Plains, NY, 4/15/12; click here

Washington, DC and Landover MD, 4/17/12;


Trader Joe’s Signs Fair Food Agreement with the CIW!

Read the PC(USA) press release

On Thursday, February 9, 2012, Trader Joe’s signed a Fair Food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, making it the tenth company to join the Fair Food program that is improving wages and conditions for farmworkers, guaranteeing corporate accountability and ensuring consumer confidence.

As you celebrate this agreement between Trader Joe’s and the CIW, take a moment to let the company know that they’ve done the right thing. Use our letter or drop off your own when you next shop at Trader Joe’s.

And let us renew our commitment to bringing the entire supermarket industry into the Fair Food Program. As the prophet Amos cried, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!”


Photo courtesy of C.I.W.

Fast for Fair Food at Publix Headquarters

March 5-10

February 2012 – “Is this not the fast that I choose?  To loose the bonds of injustice…” cries God through the prophet Isaiah!  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has announced that on Monday, March 5th, fifty farmworkers and their allies from the faith, student and sustainable food communities, will undertake a Fast for Fair Food at Publix Grocery headquarters in Lakeland, FL.  The 6-day fast will conclude on Saturday, March 10th, as fair food allies rally at a nearby Publix location and then process 3.5 miles to Publix headquarters where they will join fasters in a celebration to break the fast. Read more


Choose One Day to Fast for Fair Food during Holy Week

The Fast for Fair Food outside Publix supermarket headquarters in Lakeland, FL (March 5-11) made a strong, moral appeal to Publix executives to recognize farmworkers’ humanity and to sit down face to face with the CIW to resolve any concerns they may have about the Fair Food Program. 

Publix still has refused to sit down with their neighbors, so during Holy Week, the Florida Council of Churches is inviting you to select a day to fast for fair food and to write to Publix to urge them to join the Fair Food Program.

Pictured above are Presbyterian fasters the Rev. Michael Livingston of the National Council of Churches, Susan Sampson of Seffner Presbyterian Church near Lakeland, Sylvia Perez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and the Rev. Graham Hart, General Presbyter of Peace River Presbytery who led morning prayers at the fast.  On the sixth day, a dozen Florida clergy, most Presbyterian, and the family of Robert F. Kennedy, led a ceremony of break-breaking that focused on the “Table of Our Common LIfe” to which God invites us all.  See updates from the entire Fast for Fair Food: photos, media, video

Read Gradye Parson’s statement of support to the fasters


CIW and Allies Engage Ahold, April 12-17

Wayne Parrish

The Rev. Wayne Parrish, General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Boston during a February 2011 rally in Boston

March 2012 – As the annual meeting of Royal Dutch Ahold on April 17th, the CIW and its allies are engaging Ahold’s US-based supermarket chains: Stop ‘n Shop, Giant and Martins.  As the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly put it,

Inaction the face of generations of exploitation and a proven model for change is not neutral.  Your refusal to join the Fair Food Program threatens to undermine these important gains.  The time is now for you to join Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market and the eight other major food retailers who are working with the CIW and Florida growers to eliminate exploitation and slavery in the tomato fields.

If you’re near the following northeast cities, please join us for public witness.  Further details will soon be available on www.ciw-online.org


The Fast for Fair Food March 5-10 at Publix headquarters

People protesting

Presbyterians fast and support the Fast for Fair Food Outside Publix headquarters, March 5-10, 2012. Photo by Claudia Saenz.

March 2012 – Learn more about the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s Fast for Fair Food March 5-10. Support the fasters, follow social media, pray and fast and take other actions, to encourage Publix to join the Fair Food Program. text.

Details, schedule of events, media coverage

Fast for Fair Food website

You can follow the fast during the day on facebook and twitter (using the hashtag #fairfoodfast)

Learn more


The Rev. Michael Livingston of the NCC will participate in the Fast for Fair Food at Publix Headquarters March 5-10

February 2012 — The Rev. Michael Livingston, former President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and current Director of the NCC’s Poverty Initiative, will be joining farmworkers and allies in the 6-day Fast for Fair Food outside of Publix grocery Headquarters in Lakeland, FL. Rev. Livingston explains his decision to fast.

Photo courtesy of the National Council of Churches

"I love tomatoes. Many of us do. But can we eat them in good conscience when we know that the farm workers who pick them are grossly underpaid and work under conditions that most of us do not and would not tolerate?

Can we live with doing nothing when the companies who hire them or who benefit disproportionately from their labor refuse to acknowledge their responsibility for the plight of farm workers and, like Publix, will not engage in constructive conversation about meaningful change?

We are all in this life together. We are all fed from the bounty of the earth. I am going to join farm workers in Lakeland, FL in a fast as part of the Fair Food Campaign. I do not regard this as a hardship on my part. By God’s grace I can offer the luxury of my time to brothers and sisters whose humanity I value as much as my own. I count it a privilege, as the season of Lent begins, to, as Paul asks of us in Romans 12:1: “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Learn more about the Fast for Fair Food and join Florida clergy and congregations in praying that with God’s help, Publix’s isolation and hesitation can be transformed into communication and cooperation with the CIW. View and share the Faith Moves Mountains video and materials and join your prayers with thousands across Florida.

Learn more about the Fast for Fair Food


Presbyterian leaders join rally of 200+ at Publix in Naples, FL

Executive Presbyter, the Rev. Dr. Graham Hart with members of Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church rally outside Publix, Photo by Elena Stein

General Presbyter, the Rev. Graham Hart with members of Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church rally outside Publix, Photo by Elena Stein

February 2012 – On the heels of the announcement that Trader Joe’s had signed a fair food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, farmworkers and allies rallied at Publix grocery in Naples on Sunday, February 12th, urging the Florida-based grocery chain to join the Fair Food Program.  As the Rev. Graham Hart, General Presbyter of Peace River Presbytery, explains,

This season, after decades of indignities in the fields including repeated slavery convictions, 90% of our state's tomato industry has at last agreed to enact the CIW's Fair Food Program, which lifts workers' poverty-level pay and enacts a code of conduct to protect them from abuse; some 30,000 farmworkers benefit!

These historic gains are due to fast-food and food-service industry leaders -- like Taco Bell, McDonald's and Whole Foods -- responding to calls from consumers of conscience to create more humane conditions in their supply chains.  These retailers agree 1) to buy only from farms that comply with the CIW's Fair Food code of conduct and 2) to voluntarily pay a small premium for tomatoes so as to increase farmworkers' income a penny/lb.  Unfortunately, the supermarket industry -- led by Florida's grocery giant Publix  -- has so far refused to back these landmark advancements.

Join Florida Presbyterians and farmworkers in doing your part:  Pray for Publix; write an email or send a postcard to Publix; drop off a manager’s letter when you shop; support the Fast for Fair Food outside Publix headquarters, March 5 – 10!


Photo courtesy of C.I.W.

Fast for Fair Food at Publix Headquarters

March 5-10

February 2012 – “Is this not the fast that I choose?  To loose the bonds of injustice…” cries God through the prophet Isaiah!  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has announced that on Monday, March 5th, fifty farmworkers and their allies from the faith, student and sustainable food communities, will undertake a Fast for Fair Food at Publix Grocery headquarters in Lakeland, FL.  The 6-day fast will conclude on Saturday, March 10th, as fair food allies rally at a nearby Publix location and then process 3.5 miles to Publix headquarters where they will join fasters in a celebration to break the fast. Read more


Observe Human Trafficking Prevention Month

A person carrying a bucket of tomatoes in a field.

Photo courtesy of Scott Robertson.

January 2012 – President Obama has proclaimed January 2012 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month making it an apt time to learn more about how the Campaign for Fair Food has directly addressed and is helping to prevent modern slavery in the Florida tomato fields.  Read more in “Freedom in the Fields” by Chris Herlinger (Presbyterians Today, May 2011).

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been on the forefront of preventing and addressing human trafficking through their Campaign for Fair Food and specific anti-slavery efforts in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI for its work, the CIW’s anti-slavery coordinator was named the first U.S.-based anti-slavery hero by the U.S. Department of State in 2010.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Human Trafficking Roundtable, lifts up the issue of modern slavery, provides educational resources, helps Presbyterians advocate to end human trafficking, and facilitates free,  human trafficking awareness trainings with presbyteries.  Learn moreon the Human Trafficking website.


Over 200 Fair Food Supporters Rally at Publix Grocery

November 2011 – Over 200 Florida fair food supporters joined families from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on Sunday to bring a message of justice and hope as Publix opened its newest store in Sarasota, Florida.  The store, which is sandwiched between a Taco Bell and McDonald’s, found itself surrounded by the call for fair food as students from PC(USA)-affiliated Eckerd College and members of First Presbyterian of Sarasota remind Publix that Taco Bell signed a fair food agreement with the CIW in 2005 and McDonald’s did the same in 2007.  For more photos and a full report of this spirited action, visit www.ciw-online.org.  And read the opinion piece written by FPC Sarasota associate pastor the Rev. Clay Thomas and signed by seven Sarasota-area clergy that ran in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, urging Publix to move without delay to sign a fair food agreement with the farmworkers. And this moving opinion piece which recalls Proverbs 3:27 “Do not withhold the good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act” written by Lauren Maxwell.
Read more 


Fair Food supporters urge Trader Joe’s to sign Fair Food agreement with CIW

October 2011 – Over 400 fair food supporters marched to Trader Joe’s headquarters in Monrovia, Calif. on Friday October 21, as part of the Campaign for Fair Food’s Supermarket Week of Action, calling on Trader Joe’s to sign a fair food agreement with the CIW.  Presbyterians from Southern California joined the march and signed a religious leaders’ letter that clergy endeavored to deliver to the company during the action.  They were refused entry and no Trader Joe’s representative met them to receive the letter. 

For a full photo report and read Trader Joe’s statement and CIW’s response.


Supermarket Week of Action October 16-24

Stand with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in calling on grocery chains to embrace the CIW’s fair food accords that are improving wages and ending human rights abuses in the Florida tomato fields.

LOCAL ACTIONS in communities across the nation at Trader Joe’s, Publix, Kroger, Stop n Shop, Giant and Martins grocery stores. Join people of faith and conscience at a wide variety of engagements in cities across the country. Your town not on the list? Hold your own event, managers’ letter drop or other peaceful action.


Trader Joe’s Northeast Tour spurs hundreds to action

People with protest signs

Outside Trader Joe’s in Hartsdale, NY, local Presbyterians and community members witness for fair food. Photo courtesy of CIW.

August 2011 Neither blazing heat nor pouring rain could stymie Trader Joe’s customers from publicly calling on the company to work with the CIW.  Colorful local protests paired with conversations with store managers sent a clear and compelling message to Trader Joe’s executives that they should sign a fair food agreement with the CIW without delay. Read the full tour update and see photos.


Week of Actions at Trader Joe’s starts August 2

People protesting

Fair Food supporters make their voices heard, photo courtesy of CIW.

July 2011 – The CIW’s Northeast tour, which will feature Trader Joe’s protests in Washington, Dc, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City begins Tuesday, August 2.  Surprisingly, Trader Joe’s has refused to participate in the Fair Food Program, a cooperative effort between the CIW, nine major food retailers and Florida growers, that is improving farmworker wages and working conditions. 

The Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reminds us that:

In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

Pray, learn mor and join the actions!


Ohio Fair Food to Kroger: work with CIW

People with protest signs

Photo courtesy of Interfaith Action.

June 2011 – Members of Ohio Fair Food rallied outside Kroger Headquarters in Cincinnati and posed questions during the company’s annual meeting on why the grocery giant was not working with the CIW.  While Mr. David Dillon, CEO, praised the work of the Campaign for Fair Food, he and his company have refused to do their part.  Ohio Fair Food members are determined to change their mind.  Do your part by sending postcards and dropping off manager’s letters to Kroger-owned supermarkets when you shop.

Read the full update and take a moment to pray for the work of the Campaign for Fair Food.


World Communion of Reformed Churches

News Release 4 April 2011

Protest in support of agricultural workers marks church justice meeting

Romeo Ramirez, a peace and justice advocate and migrant worker, helped Thursday to lead a peaceful protest, involving about 30 members of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, outside of a Publix Supermarket near the small town of Immokalee in the southern state ofFlorida in the United States.

Ramirez and other members of a worker's rights group called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have been seeking a penny-per-pound increase on the price of tomatoes. In the last few years, the coalition has gotten fast-food restaurants and food wholesalers to agree to the increase, but grocery chains have refused to pay the price.

WCRC representatives made the onsite visit to the Florida town and participated in the grocery-store protest as part of a justice consultation in nearby Fort Myers, Florida. Continue reading


World Communion of Reformed Christians Urges Publix to Work with CIW

April 2011 – Members of the World Communion of Reformed Christians, a network of 230 Protestant churches in 108 countries with a combined estimated membership of 80 million people, visited Immokalee, dialogued with the CIW, and joined local Floridians from area congregations and Eckerd college in a peaceful protest that urges Publix to work with the CIW. See the full report and links to photos


More than 1500 March to Publix

Farmworkers engaging in protest and street theater

Farmworker's participatory theater brings a message of struggle and hope at the rally at Publix that drew 1500-plus people on March 5. Photo courtesy of CIW.

March 2011 – More than 1500 people converged on a Publix in South Tampa this past Saturday, calling on the Florida-based supermarket to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to end poverty wages and abuses in the tomato fields. The Tampa marches and rally culminated the week long Do The Right Thing Tour that wound its way from Boston to Tampa. Three marches beginning at different Publix locations in Tampa joined up at the Publix on busy Dale Mabry Highway to urge the company to join nine other corporations and more than 90 percent of Florida growers in improving conditions. 

Presbyterians from across Florida marched, rallied and participated in the CIW-led theater, a participatory pageant featuring larger than life puppets and banners which told the story of atrocities, hope, struggle and victory.  Presbyterian, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal and Lutheran clergy offered the blessing “let my people go” during the theatre, reminding Publix that “for those who realize freedom is not ultimately about being free from one another, but about being freed for one another, for those of us who understand that none of us is free until all of us are free, the cry ‘let my people go’ becomes a blessing.”  Read the whole blessing. The theater culminated with the children of Immokalee coming onto the stage as the musicians and crowd sang “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day” attesting to the hope beginning to dawn in the fields because of the CIW’s fair food agreements.  See a full photo report and all media coverage.  And be sure to check out these fantastic photos from the Naples Daily News .


Join us on Saturday, March 5 in Tampa as we call on Publix to ‘Do The Right Thing!’

People grouped together for photo in a church

Members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lakeland and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, photo courtesy of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

March 2011The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Do The Right Thing Tour will pull into Atlanta for a day of peaceful pickets at Publix stores on Friday March 4 and a peaceful, mass march and rally in downtown Tampa on March 5beginning at 2 p.m.  Presbyterians all along the east coast have been joining the CIW in urging the supermarket industry to forge fair food agreements with the CIW.  On Saturday the focus will be Lakeland, Florida-based Publix whose own founder, George Jenkins, said, “Don’t let making a profit get in the way of doing the right thing.”  Join us as we urge Publix to follow the advice of its founder. Find all the details on Friday’s and Saturday’s events.

The Rev. Jean Cooley and her congregation, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lakeland, Florida have been vibrant supporters of the Campaign for Fair Food.  “A key element of our church’s mission statement is to ‘equip disciples to do justice,’” Jean explains. “We believe that at the heart of the good news of Jesus Christ is the call to act for justice for those who have been left out. When we shop at Publix grocery we remember those who pick our beautiful tomatoes but do not make enough money to feed their own children or are being forced to work as modern slaves. It is God’s call to us to stand up and demand that this huge corporation to do justice and to love kindness.” See you on March 5!


Presbyterians are supporting the Do The Right Thing Tour

March 2011 – As the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Do the Right Thing Tour makes its way from Boston to Tampa this week, Presbyterians have been turning out to march and rally as together we call upon supermarket companies Publix, Ahold (owner of Stop n Shop, Giant and Martin’s) and Trader Joe’s to work with the CIW to improve farmworker wages and working conditions in the Florida tomato fields. 

A minister in front of a Stop and Shop protest banner

Wayne Parrish, executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Boston (left) speaks at the rally in Boston, photo courtesy of CIW.

Check out CIW’s day by day photo and video reports which (thus far) feature the Rev. Dr. Wayne Parrish, executive presbyter of the Boston Presbytery at the 900-plus person march on Stop n Shop in Boston, farmworkers enjoying lunch at the Rutgers Presbyterian Church in Manhattan after a spirited protest at Trader Joe’s on the upper west side and the Rev. Mark Greiner of Takoma Park Presbyterian Church offering a benediction after the CIW’s delegation to Giant food executives was rebuffed

And consider these words from Presbyterian and Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, Mark Douglas, who attended the CIW picket at the Publix on Ponce in Atlanta with his family:

“Few things connect us to the rest of the world more concretely than food.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons that the Christian faith is so attentive to our eating habits and table manners.  It’s certainly the reason that we should care about those whose labors make our own eating possible.  So it seems to me that Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 11 extends beyond occasional celebrations of the Lord’s supper and to all our eating practices:  ‘Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.’  Participating in the Campaign for Fair Food may be an important way to live out a Eucharistic faith.”


Sign on to a clergy letter to Stop & Shop/Ahold

 

A farm worker in the field.

A farmworker harvesting in the tomato fields, photo by Scott Robertson.

February 2011 – With less than two weeks to go until the Do The Right Thing tour of CIW members and conscious consumers marches through Boston on Sunday, February 27, Boston area clergy and religious organizations, including the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, invite clergy and faith groups across the Northeast to sign on to a letter urging Stop & Shop and its parent company Ahold to "work with the CIW to do what is needed to bring the bounty of justice to all of our tables." Sign on today!


'Are atrocities the church’s business?'

February 2011 – From sermons to public prayer and witness at peaceful pickets at Publix stores, Presbyterian clergy and congregations increase the call for Publix to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  The Rev. Clay Thomas of First Presbyterian Church, Sarasota, preached from Isaiah 58 reminding us that God calls us to “loose the bonds of injustice and to break every yoke” TODAY and for Publix to do its part by working with the CIW.  Here’s an excerpt:

A man holding a sign that says Publix Good Food Bad Ethics

A protest outside a Sarasota Publix store, February 2011, photo courtesy of CIW

Now I know this gets a little sensitive.  Publix does a lot of great things.  Their headquarters are here in Florida. And I love all the buy one get one frees. Shopping is a pleasure at Publix. It’s pleasure when I get fresh bread from the bakery. It’s a pleasure when the baker gives my son and daughter a cookie. It’s a pleasure when I see their Greenwise coffee that boasts of fair trade and farmers’ rights. But when I get to the produce section, and I see the bin of tomatoes it is no longer a pleasure. I wonder why I spend thousands a year at a grocery store that does not believe farm workers deserve rights. That they do not even deserve a hearing.  It’s not their problem.

Recently a Publix community relations manager said, "We don't have any plans to sit down with the CIW." ... He added, "If there are some atrocities going on, it's not our business.”

Let that soak in.  Atrocities — not our business. 

Are atrocities our business?

Is human dignity the church’s business?  

Download the whole sermon


Call on Ahold and Publix supermarkets to 'Do The Right Thing!'

CIW Tour:  February 27 (Boston) – March 5 (Tampa), 2011

People marching with a CIW banner

Photo courtesy of CIW.

January 2011 – Nine of the largest food retailers in the world as well as more than90 percent of the Florida tomato industry are now working together with the CIW and the concrete advances for farmworkers’ human rights have received wide acclaim.  But Quincy Massachusetts-based Ahold, which owns supermarket chains Stop ‘n Shop, Giant and Martin’s, and Lakeland Florida-based Publix grocery, have refused to join this growing partnership to ensure human rights. 

Join Presbyterians and other people of faith and conscience as we gather for peaceful marches and rallies in Boston (February 27) and Tampa (MArch 5).  And keep those postcards and managers’ letters coming as we call on Ahold and Publix to "Do The Right Thing" and work with the CIW. 


The New York Times Extols Fair Food Agreements

A pair of hands with tomatoes

Photo courtesy of CIW.

January 2011 – Extolling the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ fair food agreements with corporate buyers and Florida growers, The New York Times ran an in depth article which built upon their favorable editorial in December.  The article illustrates the importance of all actors in the food industry bringing their power to bear if exploitation in the fields is to change once and for all.  That means the supermarket industry must join the fast food and foodservice industries in ensuring improved wages for farmworkers and implementing farmworker monitored codes of conduct to address abuses.

Now is the time for consumers to tell Ahold and Publix corporations to do their fair share. If you’re in the northeast area, come to the Community Farmworker Alliance “Encuentro,” February 4-6 in New York City to learn more and take action.  And mark your calendars for the CIW’s peaceful actions in Boston (February 27  in the afternoon) where we’ll focus on Ahold and in Tampa (March 4-5) where we’ll focus on Publix.  And keep those postcards and managers letters  going!


History in the making: CIW and FTGE sign Fair Food agreement!

Three men sit at a table and sign a document

Lucas Benitez of the CIW and Reggie Brown of the FTGE sign the fair food agreement as Gerardo Reyes Chavez of the CIW looks on. Photo courtesy of CIW.

November 2010 — On Tuesday November 16, 2010, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement that will extend the CIW's Fair Food principles – including a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process – to more than 90 percent of the Florida tomato industry. This is history in the making as the grower community affirms and supports the full participation of farmworkers in the protection of their own rights. See full press coverage and photo essay

The agreement was the capstone on the extraordinary progress made over the past month as the nation’s largest grower, Pacific Tomato Growers and Florida’s largest grower, Six L’s Packing Company each made direct agreements with the CIW.

In a joint statement, General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. Gradye Parsons and General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Valentine lauded the agreement’s collaborative approach to ensuring advances that draw upon the unique contributions that farmworkers, growers, corporations and consumers can make, drawing an analogy from it to the way that the Apostle Paul describes the church as a body whose members need each other to function well.

They called on the supermarket industry, “in particular Publix, Kroger and Ahold, to join this growing partnership of corporations, growers, farmworkers and consumer” saying that “if fair food principles are to be fully realized for every farmworker across the industry, supermarkets must also embrace them.” Read full statement

Take this opportunity to let grocery leaders know that you want them to step forward and support these historic advances that ensure human well-being.


Two Florida Growers Sign Agreements with CIW

Two men shake hands

Jon Esformes of Pacific Tomato Growers shakes hands with Lucas Benitez of CIW. Photo courtesy of CIW

October 2010 — Two of Florida’s largest tomato growers have made direct agreements with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  On Wednesday, October 13, in a moving press conference, Jon Esformes, operating partner of Pacific Tomato Growers quoted Abraham Joshua Heschel saying, “‘Few are guilty, but all are responsible.’ ... The transgressions that took place are totally unacceptable today and they were totally unacceptable yesterday.” He went on to insist that farmworkers must have the same rights and protections as white-collar workers. Read more and see the photo gallery from this historic press conference. And the momentum for change picked up speed as Six L’s Packing Company, the largest tomato grower in Florida signed a similar agreement with the CIW on October 21. Read more


Ninth forced labor prosecution involving Florida farmworkers

September 2010 — A federal grand jury in Honolulu has indicted six people — including the President of Global Horizons Inc. (a guestworker recruiting company) — for conspiracy to commit forced labor in what the FBI called “the largest human trafficking case ever charged in U.S. history.”

The indictment refers to 400 Thai workers who were brought from Thailand to the United States by Global Horizons “to work on farms across the country under the U.S. federal agricultural guest worker program.”

They worked on farms in 13 states, including Hawaii, Washington, Florida, Ohio and Kentucky. The Department of Justice press release describes how “the defendants conspired and devised a scheme to obtain the labor of approximately 400 Thai nationals by enticing them to come to the United States with false promises of lucrative jobs, and then maintaining their labor at farms ... through threats of serious economic harm.Read more

This case is a sobering reminder of the need to ensure basic rights for all those who labor in the fields. The U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report describes how forced labor is a form of modern-day slavery. Such abhorrent conditions do not occur in a vacuum, but in industries where workers lack basic rights.


CIW and Sodexo Sign Fair Food Agreement!

August 2010 — On August 24, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers signed its ninth fair food agreement with food service giant Sodexo. Sodexo provides food service on a number of Presbyterian-related college campuses. With this agreement the three largest foodservice providers on U.S. campuses, Compass, Aramark and Sodexo, are now all working with the CIW!

“Together with Sodexo and our other partners, we are building a system of real accountability, with tangible consequences for growers who fail to protect farm workers’ basic rights,” said Lucas Benitez of the CIW. “It is our belief that such accountability, with worker input, will be the foundation for lasting improvements in the industry.” Read more


Modern-Day Slavery Museum on tour

Modern-Day Slavery Museum truck

A side view of the Modern-Day Slavery Museum truck. Photo courtesy of CIW.

July 2010 – On Sunday, July 25, members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Va., joined hundreds of people who braved 100 degree temperatures to view the CIW’s Modern-Day Slavery Museum which is making a northeast tour, stopping in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City, Providence and Boston.  Presbyterians across the northeast are busy hosting and promoting the museum.  The Church of the Pilgrims PC(USA) in D.C., Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton and Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana in Paterson, N.J. will all serve as sites for this mobile museum where the public can come, learn and work to end modern-day slavery in the U.S. fields.

The centerpiece of the Modern-Day Slavery Museum is a replica of the cargo box truck in which farmworkers were held against their will in a recent slavery case in Florida (U.S. vs. Navarrete, 2008).

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U.S. State Department recognizes Laura Germino of CIW as antitrafficking “hero”

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Laura Germino in black, facing camera. Photo courtesy of CIW.

Ten years ago, with the passage in Congress of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (the law used to bring criminal charges of slavery against employers in the U.S. today), the U.S. State Department began issuing a yearly report on trends in international slavery and efforts to combat it, called the “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report.

As part of the annual TIP report release, the State Department recognizes the efforts of a handful of individuals from around the world who have shown extraordinary commitment and leadership in the fight against slavery, TIP “Heroes” as the State Department calls them.

This year, Laura Germino, the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign coordinator, has been chosen to receive this terrific distinction, and when she does, she will be the first U.S.-based recipient to receive the recognition. Further, the State Department has requested that the CIW's Modern-Day Slavery Museum serve as the backdrop for the 2010 TIP report ceremony.

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Learn more about the PC(USA)’s efforts against human trafficking.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God desires we “let the oppressed go free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6b). We give thanks for Laura and the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, for the thousands of farmworkers they have assisted and the way in which they have helped the PC(USA) bear witness to God’s intention of well-being for all people.


CIW, Aramark Forge Agreement

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April 2010 – As mobilization continues for the Farmworker Freedom March to Lakeland, Fla., headquarters of Publix April 16-18, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Aramark Corporation have announced they’ve forged a fair food agreement to advance the human rights of farmworkers. The Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Rev. Gradye Parsons has released a statement commending the principals.

Aramark joins seven other major retail corporations that are working with the CIW to address modern-day slavery and end the conditions in which it flourishes: poverty and farmworker powerlessness. The agreement features the hallmark zero-tolerance policy for slavery by which Aramark guarantees it will cut off purchases from growers who have used slave labor to harvest tomatoes. Aramark also will pay a penny per pound increase to farmworkers harvesting tomatoes for its Florida suppliers to dramatically and immediately improve their wages. Now let’s get Publix, Sodexo, Kroger and Ahold  to do the same!

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A Thousand Strong, Farmworker Freedom March to Publix: Work with CIW

April 2010 – Determined, jubilant and a thousand-strong, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, people of faith, students and ordinary consumers from across Florida and around the nation marched from Tampa to Lakeland, headquarters of Publix grocery the weekend of April 16-18. The three-day, 22-mile march was led by the CIW’s Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum and called for freedom from forced labor, abuse, poverty and degradation.

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CIW marchers walk toward Publix. Photo by JJ Tiziou

The march was punctuated by a prayer vigil Saturday night outside Publix headquarters featuring Bishop Wenski of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando (in which Publix is located) as well as United Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian clergy. On Sunday, the march culminated with an afternoon picket at the Lakeland Publix grocery store and a two-mile march through town to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for a concert and rally.

Presbyterians from Lakeland and across Florida were out in vibrant witness, as youth, adults, elders and clergy called upon Florida-based Publix to join the eight other retail food corporations who are working with the CIW to end modern-day slavery and the poverty and powerlessness in which it takes root. Local congregations welcomed workers to their worship services and hosted workers and supporters over the entirety of the event. Visit the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ site for photos and media now and check back soon for snapshots and reflections from Presbyterians who participated.


November 18: Day of Remembrance to End Modern-Day Slavery

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CIW families and people of faith light candles to remember slavery case. Photo courtesy of CIW.

In the early hours of November 18, 2007, farmworker Mariano Lucas hung from the ceiling inside the cargo hold of a box truck in Immokalee and punched his way through the ventilation hatch. Mariano and the other farmworkers who escaped on Nov. 18 had been held captive and forced to work picking tomatoes for more than a year. They were chained, beaten and locked inside of a cargo truck at night. Then, on Nov. 18 they escaped and started a process that would lead to freedom for the others in their case and the prosecution of the supervisors who enslaved them. This November 18, on the two-year anniversary of Mariano’s escape, we invite you to join people of faith across the country in lighting a candle and praying for an end to modern-day slavery in the fields. For resources and sample prayers for this day of prayer and remembrance, visit the Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida Web site.


CIW wins the BENNY, Brigitte Gynther wins the Cardinal Bernadin Award

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Brigitte Gynther speaking with Romeo Ramirez at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Fla. Photo courtesy of CIW

The Business Ethics Network has presented the CIW and the Campaign for Fair Food its 2009 Benny Award. A co-winner with the Yoplait “Put a lid on it,” these two campaigns were honored for achieving significant corporate transformation over the past year.

Brigitte Gynther of Interfaith Action, the Immokalee-based group that coordinates religious support for the CIW, has been selected as the 2009 Cardinal Bernadin New Leadership Award. The award will be presented on Nov. 16 at the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. The Award honors a Catholic between the ages of 18 and 30 who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions. It is named for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, former Archbishop of Chicago and a leading voice on behalf of poor and low-income people, who understood the need to build bridges across ethnic, economic, class and age barriers."

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