We Are All Farmworkers

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Scott Robertson


Yesterday I joined over 900 friends for a two-mile march in the snow through Boston. We were there to demand that Stop & Shop and its parent company Ahold do their part improve wages and working conditions for farm workers in the tomato fields of Immokalee, Florida. The march was organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers with support from allies, including the Student/Farm Workers Alliance.

The CIW and its allies are asking major supermarkets to sign on to the same agreement that fast food companies and college food service companies have signed through their Campaign for Fair Food. The CIW has posted a photojournal from the march here and a video here.

Below is a copy of the remarks I made at the opening rally:

I am here today because the food movement cannot be separate from the farm workers movement. We are one.

Imagine that today two babies will be born. One in Tarrytown, NY. One in Zacatecas, Mexico. On their first day, they will be the same. They will be all possibility. Like twins.

But over the next eighteen years, if conditions continue as they are, opportunity will blossom for one, and whither for another. In eighteen years, one may be standing here in Boston, finishing his first year in college, while the other stands 1,500 miles to the south, paid poverty wages to pick tomatoes in the fields of Immokalee, Florida.

Unseen, unknown to each other, one young man will nourish the other, picking the oranges that go into the juice he drinks for breakfast, and the tomatoes he buys in the supermarket. Oranges and tomatoes tainted, not just with chemicals, but tainted with the suffering of an unknown twin.

Gerardo Reyes was born in Zacatecas, Mexico. [Gerardo is a farm worker, an organizer with the CIW, and a friend.] I grew up in Tarrytown, NY. We are the same age.

It is possible that Gerardo's hands have picked fruit in Florida, that my hands have picked again, in a supermarket in Boston. But today Gerardo and I are not unknown twins. Today Gerardo and I are brothers.

And our lives long path has led us here, to this point today, now, to stand with each of you, and to demand change. Without change, the path is tragic and clear: one child will be falsely nourished through the suffering of his brother. But if we fight today, a new path will open.

On this path, a worker in Immokalee will be paid a penny more per pound picked. But it is not just that. On this path, these two children will grow up into a world where the people who grow and pick our food, and the people who eat it are no longer invisible to each other. A world where we will see what we have in common before we see what we have in difference. A world where we are not farm workers or farm owners, consumers or laborers, but where we are sisters and we are brothers.

And walking down this path, in 18 years, who knows what is possible?

The child raised in Tarrytown, NY, may grow up to find dignity, and meaning in the work of growing and picking real food. And the child born in Zacatecas, Mexico, may well find himself here in Boston, finishing his first year in college.

Each with dignity. Each with pride in the path taken. And each able to see the humanity in the other.

That world is ours to make.
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Josh Viertel is the president of Slow Food USA.

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