CIW’s Nely Rodriguez:  “During the fast, I found myself reflecting on the things I’ve seen, like the mothers here who have to get up extremely early to drop their kids off at daycare or school, but under the Fair Food Program, that is no longer the case. If we can make this Program expand, those things will change…”

Late last month, the James Beard Foundation announced the winners of its annual James Beard Awards, which shine a spotlight on journalists, chefs, activists, and others, who are making waves in the food world.  For some context, the CIW’s Co-Founders Greg Asbed and Lucas Benitez were proud recipients of the James Beard Leadership Award in 2016, and Food Chains, the feature-length documentary highlighting the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, was honored in 2015. 

This year, yet another Fair Food-inspired offering was selected among the nominees: “A Hunger for Tomatoes,” a feature-length narrative article in the online Southern news and culture hub, The Bitter Southerner, took the 2019 James Beard Media Award.  Weaving together stories of small farmers, farmworkers, and home seed breeders, writer Shane Mitchell paints a picture of the Southern landscape surrounding one of the region’s biggest crops – the tomato.

Today, we want to share just a few highlights from “A Hunger for Tomatoes,” which movingly depicts the community, economy, and culture surrounding the tomato throughout the South – an inextricable part of which, for the past seven years, has been the Fair Food Program.  The article explores not only the dark history of exploitation in Southern agriculture, including in the tomato industry, but also the 25-year history of struggle and transformational change brought about by the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food and, today, the Fair Food Program itself. 

Here below are some excerpts from “A Hunger for Tomatoes,” though we would strongly recommend sitting down with a good cup of coffee and taking the time to read the full, beautifully-written article, which more than earned its tip of the hat from the James Beard Foundation.

“Que es el trabajo?” asked Julia Perkins. “What’s the job?”

A group of women facing her at the bulletin board repeated the English lesson in unison. On a Sunday afternoon in late April at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) headquarters, female members gathered for their weekly coffee klatch to learn a few handy phrases, trade daycare schedules, and discuss the cost of groceries. Boxes of Polvorones and Canelitas cookies laid scattered on the folding table. A banda tune by Los Jefes de la Sierra Grande leaked from the sound booth of Radio Conciencia La Tuya next door. Murals depicting tomato workers in the field covered butter yellow walls. Hand-painted slogans “No Mas Abusos,” “Comida Justa” and “Justice for Farmworkers” hung above a cluster of desks.

“What kind of work is it?” said Perkins. “What do I need to apply?”

Perkins, a CIW education coordinator born in North Carolina, ended her lesson, and the women rose to rearrange the folding chairs and put away the snacks. All dressed neatly in jeans, cotton tops, clean sneakers. Gold necklaces, pierced ears. Long hair pulled back in sensible ponytails or braids. Cell phones tucked back into purses. Many still worked in the fields; others were field agents for the Coalition. Nice ladies, all.  

Bet you’d never guess they’re expert hunger strikers…





Taco Bell Boycott Stories: A new website series…

May 15, 2019

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tim Denson on his involvement in the Taco Bell Boycott: “Having that experience… that first taste of activism and understanding how that if people come together, large communities come together, and they support each other, we can bring about real change even if we aren’t ‘powerful’ people.” Have you ever wanted to write your own reflection for the CIW website?  Now’s your chance!   Tell us your “Taco Bell Boycott Story,” the story of how you became involved in the Taco Bell Boycott and what that involvement has meant to you since that seminal campaign… Last week, […]

Social media smack down, Part 3: Media round-up…

May 10, 2019

As the dust slowly settles from the Category 5 social media storm sparked by Amy Schumer’s explosive Instagram call to boycott Wendy’s last Sunday, the verdict becomes clear: Wendy’s took this one on the chin… Forbes: “Social media can have a huge impact on brands, for good and bad. Wendy’s recently learned that truth as it received both adoration and backlash on social media. Its major flaw was only responding to the positive attention and completely ignoring growing protests.” To say that Wendy’s PR Department had a rough go of it this past week would be an understatement.  When you […]

Wendy’s social media smackdown, Part Two…

May 8, 2019

Sunday Fail: Wendy’s tries to leverage social media for free publicity following Chance the Rapper tweet; Amy Schumer responds with an Instagram post calling for a boycott given Wendy’s refusal to join Fair Food Program; #BoycottWendys goes viral… Monday Fail: Wendy’s turns to CNN with statement intended to extinguish “mushrooming” social media firestorm sparked by Amy Schumer’s viral Instagram boycott post; Alyssa Milano sets the record straight with a hard-hitting response to Wendy’s disinformation-filled statement; Still more consumers educated on Wendy’s unconscionable position on sexual violence in agriculture… Fair Food Nation: 2  Wendy’s PR Department: 0 On Monday, Wendy’s PR department went […]

Social media smackdown! Amy Schumer, Alyssa Milano blast Wendy’s on Instagram, Twitter!

May 6, 2019

Wendy’s attempt to leverage pop culture and social media goes terribly awry, as comedian/actor/activist Amy Schumer leverages her own much-anticipated baby gender reveal with a heartfelt call to Boycott Wendy’s!  Alyssa Milano followed suit, and it was game over… Within hours, #BoycottWendys was trending on Twitter and Instagram, and millions of consumers were learning of the nationwide boycott, as news of the campaign spread across USA Today, People Magazine, E! News Online, Fox News, and more! From the Live by the sword/Die by the sword Department… In order to fully understand today’s story, it is necessary first to learn a tidbit […]

In his own words: Read Steve Hitov’s acceptance speech at ICAR’s Gwynne Skinner Human Rights Award ceremony…

April 30, 2019

Hitov: “I would challenge each of you to ask this simple question.  Will what I am about to do create meaningful and sustainable change, or will it just be words on paper?  If it won’t improve the day to day reality of the people whose lives and rights you are concerned about, in a way that can be proven, then do something else, or do more.” Last Wednesday’s Gwynne Skinner Human Rights Award ceremony at the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) annual meeting in DC was a night to remember.  When we first wrote about ICAR’s selection of the CIW’s […]

Endorsements for the CIW’s Wendy’s Boycott keep rolling in!…

April 26, 2019

Representing over a thousand members across the U.S. and the world, the Quaker Southeastern Yearly Meeting and Dominican Sisters of Peace endorse the Wendy’s Boycott! “Guided by our Quaker principles of fairness and equality, Southeastern Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), has supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) for many years…” The list of official endorsements of the CIW’s Wendy’s Boycott just keeps growing!   Fresh off the excitement of last week’s major Day of Action, we bring you news of two new Wendy’s Boycott endorsements: the Dominican Sisters of Peace on April 11th, and the Southeastern Yearly […]

ACTION REPORT: Students, people of faith and community allies drop banners in support of Wendy’s Boycott!

April 23, 2019

PLUS: Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and the Florida Poor People’s Campaign join forces with CIW to demand a moral commitment to human rights from Wendy’s… Today, we bring you a report from last week’s jam-packed actions in the Campaign for Fair Food, courtesy of the Student/Farmworker Alliance.  From student- and community-led banner drops across the country to a powerful visit to Immokalee from the national Poor People’s Campaign, it was a big week in the Fair Food Nation! Without further ado, here is SFA’s report from the week’s events (and make sure to head over to their website for even […]

Fabled Highlander Center burned to the ground by arsonists in Tennessee…

April 19, 2019

White supremacist symbols spray-painted at the site point to terroristic motive for attack… Please donate today to help re-build unique, century-old symbol of American human rights movement. Unless you have made the conscious decision to stop following the news altogether – a not entirely unreasonable decision these days, given the overall flow of current events – you are aware of the tragic news out of Paris of the fire that destroyed large parts of the 800-year old Notre Dame Cathedral.  An impossibly beautiful and irreplaceable piece of humankind’s collective history was lost in that fire, and though, thankfully, the most […]

BREAKING: Longtime CIW General Counsel Steve Hitov to receive national human rights award!

April 10, 2019

Hitov selected to be inaugural recipient of the Gwynne Skinner Human Rights Award, given by the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)  He was with the CIW during the general strikes of the 1990’s, securing the release of farmworker leaders from the Collier County Jail when they were wrongly arrested by overzealous sheriff’s deputies. He was with the CIW in 2000, when we marched for two weeks – and 234 miles – across the state of Florida on the March for Dignity, Dialogue, and a Fair Wage (pictured above). He was with the CIW in 2005 when we negotiated our first-ever Fair […]

Follow the money: Powerful new article connects the dots between Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz and massive public employee pension funds…

April 5, 2019

Truthout: “This means that public sector workers across the country have pension funds invested with a hedge fund that refuses to do right by farmworkers, some of the poorest and most vulnerable laborers in the U.S.” In a searing new article published yesterday in the news blog Truthout, reporter Derek Seidman, a research analyst with the Public Accountability Initiative, takes a closer look at the activist investor who runs Wendy’s, Nelson Peltz, and at Peltz’s $11-billion dollar hedge fund, Trian Partners.  And what he finds might just surprise you. Following on last month’s major New York Times article on the CIW’s […]