[URBANTH-L] Call-to-Action: Fair Prices for Fair Food in Philadelphia, December, 2009

Edward González-Tennant anthroyeti at gmail.com
Fri Aug 21 15:08:09 EDT 2009

This is a call to action for volunteers to get involved in helping the
Student/Farmworker Alliance’s “Dine with Dignity” program. Basically, it’s a
call for volunteers from the AAA membership to assist/organize a massive
petition drive asking food service company Aramark to sign an agreement with
the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW). Such an agreement represents a
crucial step in fighting human rights abuses and modern slavery infesting
the agricultural industry in America. 


Interested? Then respond to this call-to-action by going to
http://activism.anthroyeti.com/AAActa/ The website has links to information
about farmworker issues, useful tips on organizing a campus petition drive,
a listing of campus contacts for this action, further steps on how to get
involved, instructions on joining the action’s listserv, and will allow us
to coordinate the delegation in December.

Below is a longer version of this Call-to-Action, circulate widely,
particularly to anyone you know on a campus serviced by Aramark and/or with
a history of on-the-ground activism. 



AAA/SFA Call-to-Action: Fair Prices for Fair Food in Philadelphia, December,


This year’s AAA meetings are taking place in Philadelphia, home to the
corporate headquarters of Aramark. As one of the largest food service
companies in the United States, Aramark has contracts worth billions of
dollars with universities, high schools, school districts, and jails. As  a
major purchaser of produce, Aramark's high-volume, low-cost purchasing
practices perpetuate poor living standards and human rights abuses among the
nation’s farmworker communities. The Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) began
the “Dine with Dignity” campaign in March 2009 by calling on Aramark – as
well as food service giants Compass/Chartwells and Sodexo – to help end
human rights abuses (including modern slavery) in Florida’s fields. This
program chose food industry leaders like Aramark because such companies have
unprecedented purchasing power which they actively wield to demand lower
prices from their produce suppliers. These corporations' drive for the
cheapest produce possible places an enormous downward pressure on
farmworkers’ wages and working conditions. In the most extreme cases,
farmworkers are actually subjected to modern-day slavery: being held and
forced to work against their will.


This SFA campaign is aimed at continuing and expanding ongoing work by the
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Since 2001, the CIW has sought and
reached agreements with Taco Bell (2005), McDonald’s (2007), Burger King
(2008), Subway (2008), Whole Foods Market (2008), and food service provider
Bon Appétit (2009) resulting in an increase in the per-pound price of picked
tomatoes earned by workers in these corporations' tomato supply chains.
These agreements also call for supply chain transparency, guarantying
workers the right to participate, and helping form third-party mechanisms
for monitoring the food service industry.


While such agreements are important victories, action is still required. The
US Department of Labor found in its Profile of Hired Farmworkers, A 2008
Update (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR60/) that farmworker poverty
is more than twice that of all wage and salary employees. Indeed, tomato
pickers in the fields of Florida make an average of $10,000/year while
working 60-70 hour weeks. Additionally, these types of campaigns remain
important in raising awareness of the most severe cases of farmworker abuse
resulting in modern-day slavery. The CIW’s anti-slavery campaign has been
internationally recognized for its unique form of a worker-based approach
aimed at abolishing modern-day slavery. For instance, in 2007 Ron Evans, a
Florida-based farmworker employer, was sentenced to thirty years for
enlisting homeless individuals from shelters with the promise of good jobs;
only to deduct rent, food, crack cocaine, and alcohol from workers’ pay in
one of the worst examples of modern-day servitude recently uncovered. This
case was investigated and reported to authorities by the CIW and a
Miami-based homeless outreach organization (Touching Miami with Love) in


How can we make a difference in Philadelphia this December? The simple
answer is by connecting with the “Dine with Dignity” campaign gearing up on
campuses across the US. I propose the establishment an informal network of
volunteers from among the AAA membership (particularly of students) on
campuses serviced by Aramark. This network will consist of a volunteer for
each campus serving as liaison and organizer. These volunteers would either
join with an active SFA group’s effort on their home campus, or organize a
petition-signing campaign if no SFA contact person exists. Then, in
December, the volunteers from each campus will bring their signatures to the
AAA meetings. We will schedule a time during the conference to hand deliver
all signatures to Aramark’s corporate offices in Philadeliphia as part of an
SFA delegation. Hopefully, campus liaisons and other interested individuals
will accompany the delegation as a sign of solidarity with farmworkers in
Florida and elsewhere. Based on the  decision to move the AAA’s 2004 annual
meetings in response to the ongoing labor strike at the San Francisco
Hilton, I hope that this call to action will resonate with members on
campuses where the food service is handled by Aramark. While the decision to
move to a non-unionized hotel received mixed reception, I am optimistic that
members will stand in solidarity with Florida’s farmworkers and volunteer to
participate in this Call to Action.


Interested? Then respond to this call for action by going to
http://activism.anthroyeti.com/AAActa/. The website has links to information
about farmworker issues, a listing of campus contacts for this action,
further steps on how to get involved, instructions on joining the action’s
listserv, and will allow us to coordinate the delegation in December.


Edward Gonzalez-Tennant

University of Florida, Gainesville


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