From the May-June 2017 issue of News & Letters
Chicago—Florida tomato pickers with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and dozens of local supporters demonstrated in front of the Wendy’s restaurant on Division Street on March 22. They were demanding that Wendy’s join other fast food restaurants in negotiating with the CIW farmworkers. Wendy’s has not yet agreed to contribute, for the benefit of farmworkers, a mere penny a pound more for tomatoes they purchase.
Immokalee workers have chosen this form of organizing to overcome the formidable obstacles to traditional union organizing. Politically connected producers in Florida still expect to run their corporate farms like nineteenth-century plantations, regardless of labor laws or laws in general.
The weather was bitterly cold that day in Chicago, especially for those Immokalee workers who had come from Florida for the campaign, yet four participants risked frostbite by playing ukuleles with their bare fingers. Passing drivers honked in support, and pedestrians offered their own verbal support.
The response from the restaurant manager was not to engage with protesters, but to send an employee out to the Wendy’s sign to spell out “Support Community Families In Need” on their marquee. That gave picketers the chance to explain to that employee why they were there.
—Immokalee workers supporter