CIW steps into the TEDx ring in CA…

A bit of news that got lost in the wash of the Supermarket Week of Action and two huge Trader Joe marches in California was the appearance of the CIW’s Gerardo Reyes Chavez in a TEDx forum organized by Fair Food Program partner Bon Appetit.

Well, now we can share the news! Organizers described the forum and its goals on the event website:

“On Friday, October 14, 2011, at Mills College in Oakland, CA, TEDxFruitvale will bring together farmworkers, farmers, activists, artists, students, professors, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs to celebrate the people upon whom we depend to harvest our food. In three sessions, titled Meet, Movement, and Money, 18 speakers will provide a 360-degree view of farmworkers today and throughout history; compare labor’s progress with other social justice movements; and end by discussing fair labor practices from a business standpoint.” read more

TEDx Fruitvale was very well received, as was the CIW’s participation in a line-up that read like a virtual who’s who of the food justice movement. had this to say about the forum and about Gerardo’s participation (“Harvesting change: Dispatches from a TEDx gathering on farmworkers,” 10/24/11):

“If there isn’t a TED talk on it, how do we know it’s worth talking about?

That’s how it can feel these days, as the short videos — recorded at conferences around the world — have slowly populated nearly every corner of the internet. There’s a definite allure to watching geniuses break down big ideas into bite-size bits.

But the foundation arm of sustainability-focused food service company Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO) chose to host a TEDx* conference on something most of us never see. Instead of featuring slick technologists or designers waxing rhapsodic about elegant ideas for a brave new future, farmworkers took the stage to share the hardscrabble realities of their present. The subject matter won’t surprise those who know BAMCO — they’ve been shining a light on farmworker issue for some time now — but the conference, and the videos that came out of it, provide a view into something much grittier and harder to summarize than what we see covered in most TED talks…

… One of the hardest-working organizers in the room was Gerardo Reyes-Chavez, an organizer from the (CIW). Reyes-Chavez told the audience about the work that the CIW has done over the last decade and a half to organize disenfranchised tomato workers. The CIW has made impressive gains, against all odds, and Reyes-Chavez is still pushing for more. The coalition has convinced most of the major fast food restaurants, food service companies, and the tomato growers themselves to agree to a new game-changing pay increase for workers and a code of conduct that could infuse the lives of tomato workers with a whole new set of rights. But, he told the crowd: “We still need to bring the big buyers of the supermarket industry.” Major grocery store players like Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Publix, and Walmart have refused to come to the table.

“As long as you give me the lowest possible price,” he said, “we’re sentencing communities like Immokalee and many others in this nation to toil under the conditions of exploitation and none of this would mean anything.” read more

In short, it was a great event. So, check out the video above, and go to the TEDx Fruitvale website for all the videos and a bigger picture of the event and its follow-up.