March 150 miles to Lakeland in March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food!

Spring action announced! CIW, allies to march 150 miles to Lakeland in March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food!

The Fair Food movement began nearly thirteen years ago, in February of 2000, when farmworkers from Immokalee — who until then had been largely locked in anonymous battle with Florida tomato growers within the boundaries of Immokalee — joined forces with students, people of faith, and everyday consumers to take their call for “Dignity, Dialogue, and a Fair Wage” on the road. With little more than a map to guide them, a field truck to carry their supplies, and a 12-ft tall replica of the Statue of Liberty made of fabric, plaster and duct tape to lead the way, they took off on a two-week long trek from Ft. Myers to the offices of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association in Orlando.

Among the marchers’ number were several workers whose testimony led to convictions in two seminal slavery prosecutions (US vs. Flores, US vs. Cuello); an 18-yr old Romeo Ramirez, 23-yr old Lucas Benitez, and 22-yr old Julia Gabriel who three years later would receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for their leadership in the struggle for farmworker rights; and the core of young student activists who came together in the wake of those two unforgettable weeks to form the Student/Farmworker Alliance, now a key ally in the Fair Food movement. The march marked the first major excursion of Immokalee farmworkers outside the confines of southwest Florida and onto the cognitive map of the nation as a creative, and courageous, new force for social change.

Today, we would like to announce that the Fair Food movement is returning to its roots. This coming spring (March 3-17) we are taking to the streets again in a two-week march, from Ft. Myers to Publix headquarters in Lakeland, the “March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food.”

The march will have two goals. First, we will march to mark the progress we have made since the turn of the new millennium, progress culminating in the historic changes underway today thanks to the Fair Food Program. And second, we will march to underscore the hard work that remains to be done as supermarket industry leaders — chief among them Publix — continue to undermine that progress and deny their responsibility to do their part to end decades of farmworker poverty and degradation.

Thirteen years is a long time in the life of a movement, and as we prepare in the coming months for two weeks on the road, we begin by taking a quick look back at what has transpired in this remarkable period.