Over the weekend of the 5th to the 8th of September three YAYAs participated in the 9th Annual Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) Encuentro in Immokalee, Florida.
The Encuentro was a weekend of training workshops with participants from all over the country – literally every corner of the continental US. Everyone was from a different organizations, which presented a great opportunity to learn more about others and their own experiences.
Late Saturday afternoon we participated in a rally in Naples, where we walked from Publix to Wendy’s. There were easily one hundred participating members in the protests which included people who weren’t even part of the Encuentro. Though the manager at Publix was polite and took the letter that was sent by the delegation, it is highly doubtful that he passed it along through his supply chain. The manager at Wendy’s was completely unresponsive and, comically enough, kept insisting he “was Switzerland” when it came to farmworker issues.
In terms of organizing, we looked at how each part of the country is part of a greater whole. For example, we participated in a regional training for the Southeast U.S. that asked that we focus primarily on the Publix campaign rather than Wendy’s.
For YAYA, and for the larger farmworker movent, this gathering was so special because it really instilled this idea that people are around the country are involved in the betterment of standards in the fields. The CIW’s campaign for Wendy’s and Publix revolves around pressuring these companies to pay a penny more per pound as well as ensuring better, more humanitarian treatment, of the workers. The supply chain was explained to us in depth as well as the process that occurs once companies do sign onto the contractual agreement.
Working in this environment and being around all these motivated people is really encouraging to continue organizing and working towards a common goal. Sometimes it is very easy to become discouraged over how certain things unfold but the Encuentro aimed to inspire. By coming together it reinstilled the reason behind why this movement exists in the first place. We even learned that the CIW will be receiving an award in New York soon! This is a very exciting time considering that this coalition was formed and is mostly run by farm workers in the area.
Although it was a long weekend of strategizing for different campaigns, it was a great experience. There was even a news story about the rally! We would also like to thank the Student/Farmworker Alliance for hosting the Encuentro! In our own Orlando community we continue to stand in solidarity with the CIW and their efforts, we encourage anyone and everyone to participate in one of our Publix rallies which is done in their support.