Part One: CIW Women’s Group Harvest without Violence Tour arrives in Columbus!

Farmworkers debut new Harvest without Violence Mobile Exhibit, join forces with religious leaders from across Columbus, ahead of protest at Wendy’s corporate headquarters…

This past weekend, the CIW Women’s Group, accompanied by CIW members and allies, rolled into Columbus, Ohio, on the first of two Harvest without Violence Tours.  The ensuing days were a whirlwind of consumer education and action in support of the workers’ demand that Wendy’s take responsibility for — and help end — violence against farmworker women in its supply chain by joining the Fair Food Program.  

The weekend’s jam-packed agenda included the debut of the new Harvest without Violence Mobile Exhibit, a moving interfaith service, a powerful delegation to the OSU President’s Office, and a spirited action (once again in the rain) in front of Wendy’s Headquarters.  The Columbus tour was so eventful, in fact, that we’ll be splitting the report into two parts, with today’s post featuring the debut of the CIW’s new mobile exhibit and Sunday’s inspirational interfaith service.  Part Two, coming later this week, will cover the action elements of the weekend’s events, featuring the delegation to the President’s office and the protest at Wendy’s headquarters. 

A Harvest without Violence…

Early last Sunday morning in Columbus — after 20+ hours of driving from Immokalee (and many, many more hours spent preparing and fine tuning the extraordinary new exhibit at the CIW community center) — CIW members debuted the new Harvest without Violence Mobile Exhibit in front of the First Congregational United Church of Christ.  As hundreds of UCC congregants exited the church following each of three services throughout the day, they were greeted by members of the CIW crew, who led tours of the exhibit, answered questions about farm labor conditions and the Fair Food Program, and encouraged church members to join workers for Monday’s action in Dublin.

Stepping inside the Harvest without Violence tent, visitors were immersed in a world of multimedia and investigative journalism, extensive academic research, court documents and farmworker women’s testimonies detailing the problem of violence against women in agriculture, both here in the US and across the border in Mexico.  Once outside of the tent, participants walked through the second half of the exhibit, which captures the new day in the fields ushered in by the Fair Food Program.  The unprecedented transformation — and the Program’s stunning impact on farmworker women’s lives, specifically — is examined in depth through the key components of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model, including extensive worker education and meaningful market consequences.   

Alliance for Fair Food’s Uriel Perez leads congregants through the museum’s panels, detailing sexual violence in agriculture as well as the solution provided by the Fair Food Program.

At the conclusion of the tour, visitors to the powerful new exhibit were presented with a choice: Which tomato would they buy to eat and share with their families, one picked in an environment of dignity and respect for human rights under the protections of the Fair Food Program, or one picked where women still face rampant sexual harassment and assault without access to remedy?  The answer among the visitors in Columbus this past weekend was unanimous, and stood in stark contrast to that of Wendy’s, whose decision to abandon its longtime Florida suppliers after Florida growers implemented the Fair Food Program on their farms and shift its purchases to Mexico sparked the national boycott launched nearly two years ago.

Finally, congregants were invited to sign a long scroll, carrying a powerful message for Wendy’s penned by the Women’s Group, which will travel the country with the exhibit to gather the thoughts and signatures of consumers who stand with farmworker women in the struggle to end sexual violence in the fields.

An interfaith service to remember…

In the afternoon, CIW members joined First Congregational members and an inter-denominational roster of faith leaders from across the Columbus community for a moving service, uniting the voices and moral authority of nine faith traditions.  The service was hosted by the First Unitarian Universalists of Columbus, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the Abubakar Asiddiq Islamic Center, the Church of the Saviour-United Methodist, the Little Minyan Kehillah, and the North Columbus Friends Meeting.

From left to right:  Rev. Tim Ahrens, First Congregational Church of Christ; Rabbi Jessica Shimberg, The Little Minyan Kehillah; Horsed Nooh, Director of the Abubakar Asiddiq Islamic Center; Rev. Marian Stewart, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus

The service began with remarks from Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational, who gave a warm welcome to all of those gathered.  He was followed by Rabbi Jessica Shimberg of the Little Minyan Kehillah, Horsed Nooh, Director of the Abubakar Asidiq Islamic Center, and Rev. Dr. Marian Stewart of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus.  Here are excerpts from their powerful comments:

Rabbi Shimberg:  The stories we tell are the way we define ourselves, for ourselves and for future generations.  The women of Immokalee have defined their story.  You have reached into places of narrowness and victimization, and you have drawn forth strength and demanded justice.  And this is the story you have to give to your daughters and your sons, and also to our daughters, and our sons.  May you be blessed always with the strength and wisdom and knowledge that you have transformed — and continued to transform — those dark places that once enslaved you.

Horsed Nooh:  We cannot accept that 80% of farmworker women experience gender-based violence.  I want you to put yourselves in the shoes of all of those great messengers that God sent.  What do they do in the face of oppression?…
… God proclaimed, “The only reason I send scriptures and messengers is to establish justice.”  That was why God sent all of those scriptures, and all of those messengers, so that they stand with justice.  Each one of us today represents a great tradition.  Today, let us stand up together for the rights of our sisters.

Finally, the service was brought to an inspiring close with a sermon from CIW’s own Nely Rodriguez:

The words that we have heard by Frederick Douglass have been accompanying me today:  The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

It is because of this fact that we are here today.  More than 20 years ago, we as farmworkers — as the men and women of Immokalee, Florida, who harvest the fruits and vegetables of this country — decided to stop these tyrants, to say, enough with sexual violence and harassment in the fields.  To make our dignity known. …

… Thanks to the Fair Food Program these tears have dried up and our dignity is no longer being tread upon.   We have been able to put an end to the acts of tyrants, and our resistance will continue on until these new rights touch the lives of more workers.

Today we are here, once again in the heart of Ohio, to continue our struggle for justice and call on Wendy’s to sign a Fair Food Agreement that guarantees basic human rights protections, and that as women we do not have to continue sacrificing our dignity to put food on the tables of our families.

Walking out of the beautiful and historic church, CIW members left secure in the knowledge that the faith community of Columbus stood behind them in their struggle to end sexual violence in the fields, and to expand the critical human rights protections of the Fair Food Program’s well beyond its current borders.  

It was time, now, for action.

Check back soon for the second installment of the report from the action-packed weekend in Columbus!