NYC Jewish, labor leaders pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with farmworkers ahead of City Council vote!

NYC Council Member Mark Levine (left) declares his support for the Fair Food Program on a panel with CIW’s Oscar Otzoy (center) and the Alliance for Fair Food’s Uriel Perez (right), presenting at an event convened by The Workers Circle (January 2020) in New York City.

NYC City Council Member Mark Levine: “Immokalee is not just, in my opinion, one of the best examples of worker power in America, but globally… But you need allies in this fight. Especially when you’re going up against a corporate Goliath like Wendy’s and that’s why we’re here. “

With the big Follow the Money March less than two months away, things are heating up in New York City!  The NY City Council is gearing up for a vote on a resolution in support of the Fair Food Program, which was introduced by Council Members Mark Levine, Brad Lander, and Helen Rosenthal following last November’s powerful “What Are You Hiding, Wendy’s?” March through the heart of Manhattan.  Last month, the NY City Council Women’s Caucus fueled the effort to pass the resolution with a public letter to Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz calling on the hedge fund billionaire to “exercise leadership and encourage Wendy’s to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program (FFP).”

Meanwhile, Fair Food organizers have already headed to New York to start connecting with the ever-growing network of Fair Food supporters there  — and throughout the Northeast — ahead of the big action!  Just last week, The Workers Circle brought together leaders from New York’s labor and Jewish communities at a warm and animated event to kick off mobilization efforts for the Follow the Money March.  The event featured a panel that included not only the CIW, but also the NY City Council’s Mark Levine and Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Deputy Director of longtime CIW ally T’ruah.  Today, we bring you a dispatch directly from the Alliance for Fair Food from the panel!

For more than a century, The Workers Circle has drawn upon Jewish values to confront and resist workplace exploitation and to build a society centered on respect and dignity.  In line with their storied history, last week The Workers Circle convened leaders from Jewish and labor organizations from across the five boroughs for a powerful forum on Fair Food headlined by NYC Council Member Mark Levine, Oscar Otzoy of the CIW, Uriel Perez of the AFF, and Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster of T’ruah. 

Supporters of the Campaign for Fair Food since its inception, The Workers Circle hosted the event, and their Executive Director, Ann Toback offered opening remarks, reminding us of the power we have when we stand united.

Oscar then took the mic, recounting how, against all odds, farmworkers from Immokalee organized themselves, reached out to consumers and together confronted and convinced 14 of the world’s largest food retailers to sign legally-binding agreements that are the bedrock of the Fair Food Program.  He described the rights won and urgent need to expand these gains by bringing Wendy’s on board. 

After greeting Oscar in Spanish and joking to the rest of the room that the rest of the program would be in Yiddish (much to the delight of all), Council Member Levine expressed how much it means that the Jewish community has stepped up in this fight and stood with workers from Immokalee. Levine, who, this past November, introduced NYC Resolution 1156 urging Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, then paused to underscore the significance of this undertaking.

“Immokalee is not just, in my opinion, one of the best examples of worker power in America, but globally.  What you’ve done proves the power of organizing and I hold it up as an example here in NYC constantly.  But you need allies in this fight. Especially when you’re going up against a corporate Goliath like Wendy’s and that’s why we’re here.  We’re here to apply consumer pressure, public pressure, political pressure. We know this company is vulnerable to that pressure.  And we are going to squeeze them hard until they do the right thing.”

After a lively exchange of ideas and commitment to mobilizing support for the NYC resolution and the 3-day Follow the Money March (March 10-12) in New York City, leaders left for the Bronx, for Queens, for Brooklyn and Manhattan, on fire for farmworker rights!  

And you can fan those flames!  Are you in NYC?  Contact your council member today and urge them to become a co-sponsor of Resolution 1156!