Friday, September 11, 2009

Tomato pickers victory!

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers show once again the power and the value of self-organization. Reports of their demise or imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated - repeatedly.

But these mostly immigrant, low-paid, tough organizers extraordinaire keep coming back with more victories against all the odds. I admit that when I first began my own association with these folks, as a supporter - I signed up to receive a giant puppet that was traveling the nation during the Taco Bell campaign, and to organize a local demo within a day or so of the puppet's arrival - I secretly thought to myself, "What chance do they really have?" After all, in the real world, when David goes up against Goliath, he often gets his proverbial ass handed back to him tied up with a nice frilly ribbon.

Not this time.

And maybe even more amazing, the five years to the Taco Bell win was followed by two years to another unexpected win at McDonald's - of all places! we were all already on the way to corporate headquarters, thousands of us, when we got the word: the protest would now be a celebration! - another year to victory at Burger King ... and along the way picked up Subway and others.

In 2008, Whole Foods became the first supermarket chain to settle with CIW, and a year later growers who sell to Whole Foods had begun signing up to participate.

A strident growers' lobby called the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange had held up progress for some time, threatening to fine any of its member growers who agreed to pay the penny-a-pound extra demanded by the CIW, tangling them all in court, etc. But eventually, like water dripping persistently against a rock, CIW wore them down.

Stung by criticism that they won't deal with the CIW despite their claims to serve "Food with Integrity", Chipotle Mexican Grill then began claiming they were "working with" the CIW - even as CIW was still asking to negotiate. Now a really big grower, East Coast Growers and Packers, has broken ranks with FTGE - or joined ranks with CIW. Chipotle then apparently announced they would buy from East Coast, but still has no deal with CIW to my knowledge. Trying to have it both ways, Chipotle?

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