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Fair Food
For other reports on worker justice >>

For earlier reports on the Fair Food Campaign and the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworker's struggle in Florida,
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Fair Food Update: March in Boston on February 27 and sign on to a clergy letter to Stop & Shop

This comes to us from Noelle Damico, of the PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food:

This coming week the Coalition of Immokalee workers and consumers all along the east coast will be calling on Ahold (parent company of Stop & Shop, Giant and Martin’s), Trader Joe’s and Publix to work with them to end poverty wages and ensure human rights for farmworkers harvesting tomatoes for the companies’ Florida tomato suppliers. Presbyterians will be joining other people of faith in bearing witness to the justice and dignity God intends for all people. See full details of the march to Stop n Shop in Boston on February 27 and the major demonstration in Tampa at Publix on March 4 at Do The Right Thing Tour.

Please join us if you are able or pray for this witness and drop off managers’ letters if you cannot be present. If you’re clergy, check out the sign-on letter to Stop & Shop/Ahold below, and consider adding your name.

More >>

New York Times praises Immokalee Workers’ fair food agreements   [1-20-11]

Thanks to Noelle Damico, of the PCUSA Campaign for Fair Food, for this news release:

Extolling the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ fair food agreements with corporate buyers and Florida growers, The New York Times ran an in-depth article which built upon their favorable editorial in December. The article illustrates the importance of all actors in the food industry bringing their power to bear if exploitation in the fields is to change once and for all. That means the supermarket industry must join the fast food and foodservice industries in ensuring improved wages for farmworkers and implementing farmworker monitored codes of conduct to address abuses.

Now is the time for consumers to tell Ahold and Publix corporations to do their fair share.  If you’re in the northeast area, come to the Community Farmworker Alliance “Encuentro,”  February 4-6 in New York City to learn more and take action. And mark your calendars for the CIW’s peaceful actions in Boston  (February 27 in the afternoon) where we’ll focus on Ahold and in Tampa (March 4-5) where we’ll focus on Publix. And keep those postcards and manager’s letters going! 


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Campaign for Fair Food receive year-end praise
This news comes from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in a release dated December 29, 2010.

Looking back: CIW's own "annus mirabilis" prompts Ft. Myers News-Press to name CIW "2010 Person of the Year"!

In recognition of a year of unprecedented victories, the Ft. Myers News-Press has recognized the CIW as Southwest Florida's "2010 Person of the Year"! Here's an excerpt from the article announcing the recognition, entitled "Coalition of Immokalee Workers' fight for justice leads to historic win," (Ft. Myers News-Press, 12/26/10):

With tomato fields stretching to the horizon, the men gripped each other in a long, strong hug.

One was born a peasant, the other privileged. Lucas Benitez and Jon Esformes were together that November morning to announce Esformes' company, Pacific Tomato Growers, would be doing things differently from now on...

... 'It is not acceptable,' Esformes said, 'that agricultural workers have any less rights than folks working in white-collar jobs.'

Those were nothing less than revolutionary words from a fourth-generation member of an industry dogged for decades by abysmal wages and labor abuses, including high-profile slavery cases.

No grower had ever before joined forces with a group of Florida farmworkers, historically excluded from many workplace protections others take for granted.

Yet farmworkers themselves - the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - brokered the deal. Simple as it sounds, its guarantees stand to transform Florida's $619 million tomato industry.

For its years of groundbreaking advocacy, The News-Press has named the Coalition of Immokalee Workers its 2010 People of the Year...

Looking forward: Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, has named Campaign for Fair Food one of five "causes worth fighting for" in 2011...

To read more about the News-Press recognition and the look ahead in The Nation, go to the CIW website

Letter from an Immokalee Worker...

CIW member Carmen Esquivel pens a letter to Publix, another to fellow workers in Immokalee


Every hour of every day, the CIW organizes in two very different worlds: In the farmworker community, and, for lack of a better term, in the outside world.

They are two very distinct spheres of activity -- with distinct organizing styles, strategies, tools, languages, and objectives -- and rarely do they meet, usually intersecting only during the major annual actions when large numbers of CIW members and Fair Food allies come together for an extended period of living and organizing side by side.

This website is almost exclusively an organizing tool of the "outside world," where we share news and analysis of the Campaign for Fair Food in a language and a style aimed at the vast and growing network of Fair Food allies across the country, and even overseas (we're talking to you, Ahold!...).

But today, those two worlds come beautifully together in a letter -- two letters, actually -- penned by CIW member Carmen Esquivel (shown here, above, speaking at the rally following April's huge Farmworker Freedom March in Lakeland). Doña Carmen wrote the letters, one to Publix, the other to her fellow workers in Immokalee, on the occasion of last month's announcement of the watershed agreement between the CIW and the FTGE. Never one to take her eye off the ball, Doña Carmen took the opportunity to remind Publix and other workers that the campaign is far from over, and we will continue to fight until "we liberate ourselves from the injustice that still exists."

Doña Carmen's letter is a inspiring confluence of the CIW's two worlds, so much so that we were moved to share it with you today in its entirety. Go to the CIW site, , to see it today. We hope you, too, are inspired by their words for the battle that lies ahead.

Thanks - Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Watch a CBS News report tonight on the Campaign for Fair Food   [11-24-10]

CBS Evening News will broadcast a report this evening, on 50th anniversary of Harvest of Shame, CIW's Campaign for Fair Food!

Don't miss tonight's CBS Evening News, as the network that produced the seminal documentary Harvest of Shame returns to Immokalee for a look at conditions in the fields 50 years later and the Campaign for Fair Food. The PC(USA)’s involvement in the Campaign may be highlighted.

The show airs at 6:30 p.m. EST, and the story on Immokalee should run around the mid-way mark in the show (but the story's time slot could change, so it would be best to tune in at 6:30 and wait for it!).

Psalm 24 reminds us that “the earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live within it.” As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us remember God’s good intention that the earth and all people thrive.

Happy Thanksgiving,

PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

Farmworkers and Florida Growers Sign Fair Food Agreement!

This past Tuesday (November 16, 2010), history was made as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers  and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement to extend CIW’s fair food principles across over 90% of the Florida tomato industry!

Starting immediately, participating FTGE members will pass on the penny-per-pound from retailers to farmworkers and cooperate with a financial audit of the penny-per-pound.

They will also adopt the Fair Food Code of Conduct – including a worker-to-worker education process, a cooperative complaint resolution system, and a participatory health and safety program – with a goal of full implementation by the 2011-2012 season.

The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly and the Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council lauded the CIW-FTGE accord in a public statement on Wednesday saying,

“The Apostle Paul’s image of the church as a body with many members who need one another to function well is an apt image for all human endeavor. All members are important and necessary. This agreement embodies a collaborative approach to ensuring a more modern and humane industry by drawing upon the unique power not only of farmworkers and growers but also of corporations and consumers. We each have our invaluable role to play in seeing that these bourgeoning advances reach their fullest potential.”

“We are hopeful, that grocery industry leaders will step forward without delay and lend their support to this proven paradigm of social responsibility, so that fair food principles may be fully realized,” continued Gradye Parsons and Linda Valentine.

With every additional retailer that participates, the wage increase and the support for fair standards will grow. So give thanks by watching a new CIW video and emailing the CEOs of Kroger, Ahold, Publix, and Trader Joe’s  urging them to join this growing partnership for fair food by working with the CIW now.

Presbyterians in Florida are also invited to participate in the Florida Council of Churches’ “Farmworkers in the Fields are Family Too” effort and collect pennies to bring to Publix during the week of Thanksgiving, urging them to work with the CIW.


Noelle Damico
PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

Immokalee Tomato Pickers Secure Path-Breaking Deal with Florida Grower      [10-15-10]

Mischa Gaus reports in Facing South, posted on

The farmworker group Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced this week it has reached a landmark deal with a Florida tomato grower to govern conditions in the fields.

The agreement greatly expands the proportion of Florida's $500 million tomato crop that will be produced under CIW's code of conduct. That code includes a grievance-like complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and access for CIW to the fields for direct worker-to-worker contact.

The group's aim is to keep tomato pickers themselves at the center of the battle to improve the notoriously poor conditions in agriculture. CIW has helped uncover eight cases of involuntary servitude among Florida farmworkers over the last 13 years that have resulted in prosecutions of farm bosses and labor contractors.

Yesterday's deal with Pacific Tomato Growers, a privately held company reported to sell $151.6 million worth of produce a year, also brings in third-party monitors to ensure that the penny-per-pound wage increase CIW has won over the last five years actually reaches farmworkers. Big purchasers of tomatoes -- McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, three big campus food service companies, and Whole Foods -- have all agreed to pay the penny increase, but the Florida tomato growers' trade association has refused to pass through the gains to workers.

The full article >>

PC(USA)  Campaign for Fair Food urges support for "Week of Action on Food"    [10-12-10]

Now through October 17, the PC(USA) encourages you to participate in the Churches Week of Action on Food,  It occurs every year around World Food Day, which is always October 16. We encourage you to learn more and also to take action on the Campaign for Fair Food as a sign that God intends well-being for all people.

Short Video and Supermarket E-Action

Please visit the CIW website for a fantastic new video entitled “One Penny More.” The new two-minute video highlights the connection between the tomatoes we buy in supermarkets and the farmworkers who pick them. And share this video with members of your congregation.  After you watch the video, you can send an e-mail to Publix, Kroger, Ahold (Stop 'n Shop and Giant) or Trader Joe’sasking them to support fair wages and conditions for farmworkers. 

Visit the CIW’s Modern-Day Slavery Museum

The CIW’s Modern-Day Slavery Museum is on tour throughout the southeast. If it is coming to your area, please visit it and encourage others to do the same. If not, take a virtual tour of the museum through photos and the downloadable museum booklet which traces the continual presence of slavery in different forms in the fields of Florida and what we can do to end it.


Noelle Damico
PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

If you live in the Northeastern UN, here's your chance:

Final touches being put on Modern-Day Slavery Museum Northeast Tour!    [7-20-10]

Tour itinerary -- including a visit to the home of Ahold's US headquarters -- now online...

If you live along the east coast anywhere from Charlottesville, VA, to Salem, MA, your chance to check out the CIW's Modern-Day Slavery Museum is just around the corner!

Fresh from its exhibits at the US State Department (above) and the National Mall in Washington, DC, the museum, and the produce truck that is its centerpiece (below), will travel the northeastern states from July 25 to August 16th, raising awareness among consumers about the brutal exploitation behind the fruits and vegetables we eat and about the Campaign for Fair Food, the growing food justice campaign aimed at eliminating modern-day slavery once and for all by addressing the farm labor poverty and powerlessness that lie at its roots.

The Tour Itinerary -- which will take the museum to the heart of supermarket giant Ahold's US market (Ahold owns both Stop and Shop and Giant, two of the northeast's biggest grocery chains, and has refused to partner with the CIW to improve farm labor conditions in its supply chain) -- is online now. Check it out and see when the museum is coming to your neck of the woods!

And visit for further background materials on the Campaign for Fair Food. 

This extraordinary museum offers people of faith the opportunity to learn and take action as we heed the gospel call to "set the captives free."  Don’t miss it and spread the word!

From the Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

US State Department Recognizes Laura Germino, of Coalition of Immokalee Workers, as Anti-Trafficking “Hero”

Laura Germino, coordinator of CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign, to be FIRST US recipient of State Department “hero” designation in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Ten years ago, with the passage in Congress of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (the law used to bring criminal charges of slavery against employers in the U.S. today), the U.S. State Department began issuing a yearly report on trends in international slavery and efforts to combat it, called the "Trafficking in Persons" (TIP) report.

As part of the annual TIP report release, the State Department recognizes the efforts of a handful of individuals from around the world who have shown extraordinary commitment and leadership in the fight against slavery, TIP "Heroes" as the State Department calls them.

This year, Laura Germino, the CIW's Anti-Slavery Campaign Coordinator, has been chosen to receive this terrific distinction, and when she does, she will be the first U.S.-based recipient to receive the recognition.

Further, the State Department has requested that the CIW's Modern-Day Slavery Museum serve as the backdrop for the 2010 TIP report ceremony.

Read the full story at . Learn more about the PC(USA)’s efforts against human trafficking at .

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God desires we “let the oppressed go free and break every yoke” (Is. 58:6b).

We give thanks for Laura and the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, for the thousands of farmworkers they have assisted, and the way in which they have helped the PC(USA) bear witness to God’s intention of well-being for all people.


The Rev. Noelle Damico
The PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

Farmworker Freedom March tops 1,000 as it arrives in Lakeland

News release from the Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)   [4-22-10]

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that practicing our faith means we are to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6).

Determined, jubilant and a thousand-strong, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, people of faith, students and ordinary consumers from across Florida and around the nation marched from Tampa to Lakeland, headquarters of Publix grocery this past Friday to Sunday. The three-day, 22-mile march was led by the CIW’s Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum and called for freedom from forced labor, abuse, poverty and degradation.

Read more about the march at and let Publix know you want them to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to address modern-day slavery in the fields and end the poverty and powerlessness in which it flourishes, by sending an email to Publix’s CEO, Mr. Ed Crenshaw.


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

The Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

Immokalee farmworkers seek email support for Freedom March (April 16-18) and negotiations with Publix Grocery

This comes to us from the Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)   [posted here 4-10-10]

You may know that on April 1, the CIW made its 8th fairfood agreement with Aramark Corporation. < > On April 16-18 Presbyterians will join the CIW and other supporters on the Farmworker Freedom March from Tampa to Lakeland, FL, headquarters of Publix Grocery. In light of the upcoming action, CIW has set up an e-action by which people can send emails to the CEO of Publix, urging the company to work with the CIW.    Just click here to send your email.

We hope Publix will be moved by this public witness and by emails from across the country to change course and work with the CIW.

Farmworker Freedom March on April 16-18, 2010

from The Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Dear Friends:

Announcing the day of God’s favor, the gospel of Luke tells us Jesus inaugurated his ministry by reading from the scroll of Isaiah, proclaiming release to the captives. As followers of Jesus we continue to proclaim this good news.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers will be holding a “Farmworker Freedom March” from Tampa to Lakeland, Florida, April 16-18, 2010, calling for freedom from forced labor; freedom from abuse; freedom from poverty and degradation. In lead-up to the Freedom March, a Mobile “Modern-Day Slavery Museum” will tour Florida. Presbyterians from across Florida and across the nation are invited to participate in the Freedom March and to prepare for this peaceful witness through prayer, education and advocacy. Resources will be available soon on . For now, please save the date and pray for this witness.

Further information on the march and museum is available at .

The CIW’s Public Announcement follows:

Earlier this month, President Obama declared January, 2010,"National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month" saying:

"Fighting modern slavery and human trafficking is a shared responsibility. This month, I urge all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking. Together, we can and must end this most serious, ongoing criminal civil rights violation."

Join the CIW this spring for an intensive campaign of education and action to end modern-day slavery in Florida's fields.


Farmworker Freedom March


Three-day march of farmworkers and allies


April 16-18, from Tampa to Lakeland (home of Publix)


Route details and logistics to be announced soon

Modern-day Slavery Museum
bullet A mobile educational vehicle in the form of a box-truck outfitted as a replica of the trucks involved in the latest slavery prosecution and accompanied by educational displays on modern-day slavery in Florida, its roots, its causes, and its solutions.

For more information on either the march and the mobile museum, or to arrange for a museum visit to your community (within FL), you can contact us at . For more on this exciting action, visit .

The Rev. Noelle Damico
Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

British evangelicals press candy makers to “Stop The Traffik”

The London-based evangelical newspaper, Christian Today, reminds us that our conservative sisters and brothers are engaging too in witness and ministry for justice. A recent report describes a current campaign to get manufacturers of chocolate candy, such as Cadbury and Nestlé, to stop marketing candy made by workers who have been victims of human trafficking. The report says the two companies have made small steps in this direction, but note there is much yet to be done.  For the full story >>

This reminds us of the excellent efforts being made by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to promote fair trade (also known as just trade) through a variety of programs.

Major tomato grower to implement agreements with Coalition of Immokalee Workers   [9-16-09]

This good news comes to us from the Rev. Noelle Damico, who staffs the PC(USA)’s Campaign for Fair Food:

Dear Friends:

We have wonderful news! One of Florida’s largest tomato growers has agreed to fully implement the CIW’s fair food agreements. Thanks to your efforts in calling on fast-food, grocery, and foodservice retailers to work with the CIW, a large enough share of the market has been created that East Coast Growers and Packers was incented to break from the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) and implement these agreements.

Jesus reminded his followers of a simple, but profound Hebrew teaching, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). East Coast’s decision demonstrates that the commitment of growers as well as farmworkers and corporations are needed if we’re to create a food system that is ensures our common well-being.

In the wake of this momentous step forward, please take a moment to call on leading grocery corporations, Kroger, Publix, and Ahold, to work with the CIW now. Click here for resources.

Great news! Two growers agree to pass penny to farmworkers!

From the FAIRFOOD e-newsletter of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Two organic Florida growers have agreed to pass the penny per pound along to workers and adhere to strict labor standards!

Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms have reached agreements with Whole Foods Market to fully implement the principles of the Campaign for Fair Food, effectively breaking the stalemate established nearly two seasons ago when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange threatened to fine any of its members that sold tomatoes under the terms of the CIW agreements. At that time, two Florida growers who had been passing on the penny-per-pound increase under the Taco Bell agreement ceased doing so.

As Lucas Benitez of the CIW explained, "The Campaign for Fair Food is bearing fruit. For nearly two seasons, the Campaign's promise of fair wages for Florida's farmworkers has been held hostage by the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. Today, however, the higher wages and fairer conditions we have fought for will begin to reach the workers who so clearly deserve them, thanks to the leadership of Whole Foods Market and the forward thinking growers at Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms. Without a doubt, the food market is changing, and for the better. Sustainability, social as well as environmental, is the way of the future. Together we – as farmworkers, farmers, and buyers – are forging a path toward that better future."

Karen Christensen of Whole Foods Market – the first supermarket to sign an agreement with the CIW – noted that "Lady Moon and Alderman Farms are examples of Florida growers that Whole Foods Market is proud to support. These farms are long term partners of Whole Foods Market and we look forward to continued growth together."

For more details and to read the complete press release as well as statements from Senators Durbin and Sanders, visit .

As we give thanks for this step forward, we recognize that we need all Florida growers to help create a humane, human-rights based tomato industry. As the writer of James put it bluntly, "Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts." (James 5:4)

While our work has born its "first fruit," continued advocacy is needed.

By continuing to pressure top buyers in the grocery industry to make agreements with the CIW to raise wages and standards in the fields of their suppliers as Whole Foods Market has done, growers will need to follow this new direction of the market.

So take a moment and contact Interfaith Action to order your postcards now ( ). If you're in Florida, ask for Publix cards. If you're in the Midwest, ask for Kroger cards. If you're in the Northeast, ask for Ahold (parent of Stop and Shop and others).


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food
The Rev. Noelle Damico
Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

From the Campaign for Fair Food:

CIW and Bon Appétit forge agreement


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and sustainable foodservice leader Bon Appétit Management Company have forged a new model for fair labor standards in Florida's tomato fields! The new model for advancing farmworkers' rights includes a new "minimum fair wage" provision, new practices to protect against wage fraud, worker empowerment, worker safety, and third-party monitoring which that also involves farmworkers. Read all the details as well as the Washington Post article on the agreement at . More >>

More in this update from the Campaign for Fair Food:

1. CIW and Bon Appétit Forge Agreement
2. Human Trafficking Training at Presbytery of Charlotte
3. Register for "The Big Tent" in Atlanta, June 11-13, 2009
4. 40th Anniversary of Presbyterian Hunger Program


The CIW and sustainable foodservice leader Bon Appétit Management Company have forged a new model for fair labor standards in Florida's tomato fields! The new model for advancing farmworkers' rights includes a new "minimum fair wage" provision, new practices to protect against wage fraud, worker empowerment, worker safety, and third-party monitoring which that also involves farmworkers. Read all the details as well as the Washington Post article on the agreement at .

Bon Appétit, which operates on 400 university and corporate campuses, is a large purchaser of tomatoes, about 5 million pounds a year but not as large as Subway or McDonald's. Therefore the company's needs can be met by sourcing tomatoes from smaller Florida growers, who, unlike their larger counterparts in the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, may be incented to meet these standards for the opportunity to do business with Bon Appétit. Gerardo Reyes Chavez of the CIW "We see this as a golden opportunity for Florida's smaller, family-scale farmers to gain access to a market that has traditionally been beyond their reach, and to help elevate Florida's agricultural industry in the process."

Bon Appétit is the first food service corporation to forge an agreement with the CIW to step forward since the Student Farmworker Alliance launched their "Dine with Dignity" campaign this spring, through which students on campuses across the country are insisting that their food service providers work with the CIW to advance farmworkers' human rights. To read more about the Dine with Dignity Campaign which is currently focused on Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass, visit .


On September 3, 2009, the Presbytery of Charlotte will be sponsoring a full-day human trafficking training conducted by the Freedom Network Training Institute, an educational effort co-founded by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers that has trained US Department of Justice, FBI, law enforcement, social service providers and clergy nationwide.

These trainings are able to be offered for free for groups that can convene at least 70 people from their communities. The trainings are designed for people on the front-lines of contact with modern-day slavery survivors, which include clergy. In November 2007, the Long Island Presbytery sponsored a successful training that brought together members from across their community. To learn about how your presbytery could sponsor a training, contact the Rev. Noelle Damico of the PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food at or 631-751-7076.


The PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food will be a part of a church-wide conference called "The Big Tent" in Atlanta, June 11-13. Ten ministries of the PC(USA) and many groups are joining together for the event. The Rev. Noelle Damico will be co-leading a workshop on modern-day slavery and a program for youth at the event. To learn more and register, visit .


In July, the Presbyterian Hunger Program will observe its fortieth year of working to end poverty and hunger in the US and around the world. Come join us as we celebrate what has been accomplished and explore new challenges and possibilities for our work together. Our celebration will take place during the Presbyterian Women's Gathering, on Tuesday, July 14 at 4pm. Fair trade give-aways, music and community-building will mark our celebration.

The Rev. Noelle Damico
Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

Florida governor will meet with Immokalee Workers

On Monday, March 9th at the State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies held a dramatic press conference and delivered over 39,000 signatures on letters to Gov. Crist, calling on him to meet with the CIW to address modern-day slavery in the fields. We endeavored, in the famous words of the prophet Habakkuk, to make the vision plain.

We've just learned that Governor Crist has agreed to meet with the CIW on March 25th in Tallahassee.

Your efforts in signing and circulating the Religious Community Letter to Gov. Crist played a critical role in gaining this meeting. Thank you! We'll keep you posted on the outcome of the meeting and any other important news.

For a full update with photo essays, media coverage and more, visit . Within the next week there will be several essays from Presbyterians in Tallahassee, reflecting on their experience at the press conference and on being a partner through the church with the CIW as well as the full text of the remarks by the Rev. Noelle Damico of the PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food available at .

From Campaign for Fair Food, PC(USA)

The Rev. Noelle Damico

An update from PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

Immokalee workers calling on Gov. Crist to take stand against slavery

The Rev. Noelle Damico, of the Presbyterian Campaign for Fair Food, reports on the ongoing efforts of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to end modern-day slavery in the fields of Florida.

Dear Friends:

As we continue to work with the CIW to end modern-day slavery in the fields and prepare for Monday's press conference in Tallahassee, the lectionary Psalter for this Sunday seems fitting to remember. The Psalmist proclaims that the whole congregation will join in praise because God "did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted" or hide God's face (Psalm 22:24). Far from it, God frees and heals and calls all people in society to create a world that ensures our common well-being. Sadly, Gov. Crist has thus far hid his face from the brutal suffering faced by Florida farmworkers. May that change this Monday.

In this email update:

1. Last chance to sign the Religious Community Letter to Gov. Crist on Modern-Day Slavery: Press Conference on Monday, 12 noon at the Tallahassee Capitol steps

2. Sustainable Food Leaders Visit Immokalee

3. Gourmet Magazine Features CIW's Work Against Slavery


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

1. Last Chance for Gov. Crist Sign-on Letter; CIW Heads to Tallahassee

If you've not already signed onto the letter to Gov. Crist urging him to meet with the CIW to discuss how to address modern-day slavery in the Florida fields, now is the time! Visit and encourage your friends to sign too!

The letter will be delivered to Gov. Crist as a part of the CIW's Press Conference on Monday, March 9th at 12 noon at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The Rev. Noelle Damico will be speaking at the event on behalf of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). On Sunday the CIW will be visiting at a number of Presbyterian Churches in Tallahassee including First Presbyterian Church, Faith Presbyterian and Christ Presbyterian Church.

Please keep our witness on modern-day slavery in your prayers. Visit for the Presbyterian News Service story.

2. Sustainable Food Leaders Visit Immokalee

On Wednesday, over a dozen sustainable food movement leaders – including authors Frances Moore Lappé (Diet for a Small Planet) and Raj Patel (Stuffed and Starved) as well as Slow Food USA president Josh Viertel and National Family Farm Coalition president Ben Burkett-- came to Immokalee on a delegation to witness firsthand the reality faced by farmworkers.

"Historically the [sustainable food] movement has focused on the environment, health, and preserving small farms. But we've completely missed the boat when it comes to work. Farmworkers need to be part of this movement....Today we are making that connection" said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, during the delegation's press conference. Also during the press conference, Raj Patel placed a call to Governor Crist's office to once again ask the Florida Governor to meet with the CIW and address abuses in Florida's fields. For more details on the delegation, visit

3. Gourmet Magazine Features the CIW's work in a March Feature and online editorial

This month's Gourmet magazine also bridges the gap between food and farmworkers with an article, "Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes," which delves into the slavery and abuses behind the tomatoes eaten across the country. The article describes the story of Mariano Lucas Domingo, who was held as a slave picking tomatoes for two and a half years. Gourmet contributing editor Barry Estabrook also reports, "when asked if it is reasonable to assume that an American who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store or food-service company during the winter has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave, Molloy said, "It is not an assumption. It is a fact."

Find the article in the March 2009 edition or online at

Gourmet's online edition follows up on the article by noting: "A little slavery is okay, just not too much of it. At this writing, that appears to be the official government position in the state of Florida, and it could explain why the fields of the Sunshine State provide such fertile ground for modern-day slavery."

The Rev. Noelle Damico
Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
 NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877


Immokalee Workers leader addresses UN
This report comes from the Rev. Noelle Damico, who staffs the Campaign for Fair Food, of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), dated Feb. 11, 2009.

Yesterday, Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers spoke at the United Nations to mark the first-ever "World Day of Social Justice." He emphasized the practical steps that state and federal government officials could take to address the grave human rights abuses faced by farmworkers. Read on to learn more.

The writer of 1 John exhorts us to love "in truth and action." If you haven't already done so, do take a moment to read and consider signing on to the Religious Community Letter to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist concerning modern-day slavery. It calls on the governor to meet with the CIW and to urge the Florida Tomato Growers Exchanges to stop impeding the CIW's agreements with food corporations. To read the letter, get background, and to sign on, click here >>. Please download the letter and encourage members of your church to join in this important public witness.

Peace, PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food


Lucas Benitez speaks at UN's first "World Day of Social Justice"

At the invitation of the Honorable Mary Robinson (President of the Ethical Globalization Initiative and former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights), Lucas Benitez of the CIW spoke yesterday at an event marking the first "World Day of Social Justice," organized by the EGI, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the UN.

You can find the full text of his speech at the CIW website,

The invitation to the inaugural event, held at UN headquarters in New York, was a great honor. Lucas spoke of the history of the CIW's struggle and of practical policy steps that state and federal government actors could take to help improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmworkers. He concluded his presentation:

With this sort of practical and political support from elected leaders, consumers and the corporations that purchase produce will be able to demand a new product from the US agricultural industry – not just good, cheap, and safe food, but fair food, food that respects human rights and doesn't exploit human beings.

Food is at the very heart of any society. The workers who plant, pick, and pack food throughout the US – and around the world – have suffered generations of poverty and degradation. On this day, the very first World Social Justice Day, let us recognize the fundamental dignity of farm labor and the men and women who put the food on our tables. Thank you.

The Rev. Noelle Damico
Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

For justice for Florida farmworkers

Join in asking Gov. Crist of Florida to oppose modern slavery in Florida’s fields, and to support improvement for farmworkers


The Witherspoon Society supports the PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food, in inviting you to sign on to and collect signatures for a letter from the religious community to Florida Governor Charlie Crist.  The letter calls upon Gov. Crist to work with the CIW to address modern-day slavery and abuses in Florida's fields and to urge the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to stop blocking improvements for farmworkers.

Read the letter here:

Find more background information about the letter here:

We invite you to support this letter in one of two ways:

1. Print the letter and collect signatures in your congregation, committee, and other settings during the month of February. You can download the letter and the addresses to mail it to -- just click here.  


2. Invite clergy, individuals and organizations can also sign on to the letter electronically by sending your name, city/state, and congregation/faith tradition to 

This letter is a collaborative effort with Florida religious leaders and we are seeking signatures both in Florida and nationwide to make a strong, collective witness to the Governor’s need to take a leadership role in ending slavery and abuses in Florida's fields. We ask that you collect and mail the letters (or email your electronic sign-on) during the month of February. If there is no response from Gov. Crist, we will deliver the letters in early March.

Lamentably, fear and violence are still part and parcel of Florida agriculture’s business as usual. This past December saw the seventh prosecution of modern-day slavery in the Florida agricultural fields. The brutality and degradation endured by the tomato pickers who were held against their will, locked in box trucks, chained, beaten and forced to work in the fields of two prominent Florida growers, while unimaginable to most of us, is a horrific reality for Florida farmworkers. More than 1,000 men and women have been enslaved and these numbers only include those cases which have been prosecuted.

Will 2009 be the beginning of the end of modern-day slavery in the fields? That is a question we can only answer positively if elected political leaders also add their weight to the growing effort to eradicate this shame. Gov. Crist of Florida is foremost among them. We encourage you to sign onto the letter and share it widely with your congregation, presbytery and friends.

For earlier reports on the Fair Food Campaign and the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworker's struggle in Florida,
bulletfrom 2008
bullet from 2007
bulletfrom 2005-06

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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