As a sign of continued resistance and struggle, Occupy Oakland watched as another group of protesters took to the streets this past weekend. On Sunday over 200 participants from the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) conference marched two miles to the Lake Merritt area Trader Joe’s to stand in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW).
Cheers and cries of support were palpable for blocks as the march wound its way through downtown, and past the site of Occupy Oakland.
Through difficult experience, CIW understands what it means to put the pressure on corporations, to leverage a significant mass of workers, and to develop the necessary strategic moves that will advance this campaign. As a founding member of the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), a collective of 12 member organizations committed to addressing worker injustice all along the food chain, CIW has front-line partners in the fight for food industry justice. FCWA members collaborate to establish improved working conditions and health and safety standards, to stop wage theft, and to create opportunities for worker exchanges of information, skills, and strategies.
For their own part, the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) is a coalition of individuals and organizations working to build food security across the US. The member-organizations are diverse in that they represent many aspects of the food movement: sustainable agriculture, social justice, environmental justice, anti-hunger, urban gardening, and much more. The CFSC is committed to the work of creating an authentically sustainable, just, fair, healthy, and accessible food system that includes all sectors of the food movement. At their annual conference, “Food Justice: Honoring Our Roots, Growing the Movement,” CFSC member-organizations fully supported the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, which at its center holds up the fight for a 1-cent per pound increase in pay for tomato pickers.
Sunday’s march was led by a CIW worker calling out rally songs and encouraging marchers as they made their way to Trader Joe’s. Upon arrival at the store, marchers blocked the front doors to the store and tied up parking lot traffic.
The CIW worker, accompanied by a group of allied supporters, then walked into the store as the marchers continued chanting from outside. The store manager came out to speak with the worker, who in acting as a representative for CIW then outlined their demands. The manager’s response – which including a memo from “corporate” – essentially brushed off their demands, indicating that they would not agree to the1-cent a pound increase.
Unwavering in his mission, the CIW worker took to the bullhorn and stated that Trader Joe’s response doesn’t matter: “We will be back,” he shouted.
After all, nothing short of justice is CIW’s goal, and they have been successful in this campaign before, winning their 1-cent per pound increase from grocer and fast food giants such as Whole Foods, Burger King, and even McDonalds. They have also made advances toward standards for improved conditions for workers in the fields.
With the work of the FCWA, CFSC, and the work of countless other food movement partners and allies, and with the help of those in the Occupy movement—the Fair Food Campaign will be won.