Fasting for Freedom

One hundred farmworkers and 24 youth from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers stood silently on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, their mouths covered by wide black tape. Along with faith leaders, student activists, and hundreds of other allies from across the country, they gathered in front of the office tower of billionaire Nelson Peltz, Wendy's largest shareholder and chair of its board of directors. “Never again will we allow ourselves to be silenced as women… We will not permit our children’s lives to be limited by the greed of others because our children deserve a better future!” declared Lupe Gonzalo, a Coalition of Immokalee Workers leader at the demonstration.     

The five-day Freedom Fast (March 11-15, 2018) called on Wendy’s to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, which has improved working conditions and wages in Florida’s $650 million tomato industry and in seven other states. The program seeks to eradicate gender-based violence in U.S. agriculture and in other sectors throughout the world. The Coalition’s worker-designed model was hailed as visionary in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace and is currently being adapted by worker organizations in other industries, like dairy and fashion modeling.

I asked Raquel (a pseudonym), 12, what brought her to the action in New York. Her parents, farmworkers in Immokalee who had to stay in Florida to work, gave her permission to go. She replied, “My hope for women is that one day they will be able to find their voices, like us, and take off the tape that’s preventing them from speaking… about the nightmare they’re going through.” Then she added: “For the kids: if you have a dream, you have to fight for it.”

Read Vera’s full reporting for Civil Eats:

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