The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is in town and they are going to confront that redhead, Wendy. On Saturday, November 16 at 1:00pm, Ohio Fair Food and community members throughout the state will demonstrate at 9th Ave and High Street to raise the specter of how the CIW’s Fair Food Program is rooting out modern day slavery and abuse of farm workers. That’s right. Slavery. When the Immokalee workers – who work in and around in the fields of Immokalee, Florida picking many of the tomatoes for the fast food industry – mean the term slavery, they really mean slavery. Emilio Faustino Galindo is a farmworker who worked for 16 years in the fields of Immokalee, Florida.. Florida produces over 90 percent of America’s fresh tomatoes during the fall and winter seasons. Galindo told the Free Press that workers are mainly from Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti. Galindo spoke at a Free Press gathering on Saturday, November 9, 2013 about the harsh conditions farmworkers historically faced. He stated that their movement started when a farmworker was “beaten bloody for getting a drink of water.” “His shirt became the flag of our movement. We began fighting against violence, against sexual harassment and against modern day slavery,” Galindo announced. The CIW’s highly regarded Anti-Slavery Campaign has investigated and revealed numerous instances of workers being held at work camps against their will. In one horrendous case, for instance, an employer “held more than 30 tomato pickers in two trailers in the isolated swampland west of Immokalee, keeping them under constant watch. Three workers escaped the camp, only to have their boss track them down a few weeks later. The employer ran one of them down with his car, stating that he owned them.” The CIW has assisted in the federal prosecution of six multi-state and multi-worker farm slavery organizations across the southeastern United States, liberating over 1,200 workers from forced labor. In 2010, the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign coordinator Laura Germino received the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero Award from then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. But the CIW wouldn’t stop at prosecuting crew leaders; they wanted to uproot abuse structurally, by going directly to the entities that profit off their exploitation: the major corporations that pressure tomato producers to sell at extraordinarily low prices. So in 2001, they launched their national Campaign for Fair Food, demanding that the major food retailers that buy and sell produce pay a small price premium of one penny more per pound of tomatoes to boost workers’ wages, and that they enforce a strict, worker-designed code of conduct in the fields. After a four-year national campaign with Taco Bell, rallying over 300 universities in solidarity, Taco Bell — as well as its parent company Yum! Brands, the largest fast food corporation in the world — conceded to the their demands. A decade (and ten campaigns) later, Florida farmworkers — some of the most disenfranchised workers in the country — have successfully pressured ten other major, multi-billion dollar corporations into following suit and joining the CIW’s Fair Food Program. Today, Florida’s tomato fields are undergoing a historic transformation as workers implement the mechanism they themselves designed. Through their now internationally-acclaimed Fair Food Program, for the first time ever, farmworkers are guaranteed access to water and shade; the right to be paid for all hours on the job; and the right to file a grievance without fear of retaliation. Moreover, if a case of sexual harassment or modern-day slavery goes unaddressed, Taco Bell and all other participating corporations must cut their purchases from the farm where the abuse occurred, creating a swift consequence for growers and sending a powerful message throughout the industry. But amidst groundbreaking changes in the fields, holdout corporations that refuse to join the Fair Food Program undermine its ability to function. And of the five largest fast food corporations in the U.S. Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s Wendy’s is the only one refusing to participate in the Fair Food Program. Ironically, Wendy’s current CEO Emil Brolick was the president of Taco Bell when the chain became the first corporation to endorse the Fair Food Program. Galindo recites Brolick’s words during the signing of the Fair Food agreement: “We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution. We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.” Now, eight years later, Wendy’s, under Brolick’s direction, is the lone hold-out of the Big Five. CIW has been petitioning for ten months to change Wendy’s position, with a high-profile demonstration at Wendy’s annual shareholder’s meeting and many dozens of actions around the country. This week, as Wendy’s celebrates their founding values during their “Founder’s Week,” values like “do the right thing” and “treat people with respect,” some twenty actions are unfurling nationwide to urge them to live up those espoused principles. And as home to Wendy’s headquarters, Columbus’s march on November 16 promises to be the grand culmination and focal point of the entire nation-wide event. Wendy’s likes to advertise on all their signs that they serve “old-fashioned hamburgers.” Apparently they endorse really old-fashioned labor practices as well. Galindo made a direct pitch to human rights activists in Columbus to “bring that experience to Wendy’s on November 16, and add a new experience in your life that you will be proud of."

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