EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter from Lupe Gonzalo, Nely Rodriguez, Silvia Perez, and Julia de la Cruz of the CIW to their sisters in the Time’s Up Movement.
We will get right to the point, as there is no time to spare.
We need your voice. We need your platform. We need your power. We need you to stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, and take action to end sexual violence in the fields.
We write to you today from the groves and vegetable fields of the South, where some of the lowest-paid, least-protected workers in this country toil every day to harvest the food that feeds all of our families. We have endured sexual harassment and rape, as well as forced labor and dangerous, humiliating conditions at our jobs. As our sisters in California with the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas said: “Countless farmworker women across our country suffer in silence because of the widespread sexual harassment and assault that they face at work.” Far too many of us have experienced these abuses personally in order to feed our children.
Today, however, we are not writing to lay bare our problems—thanks to your voices, and those of women who have spoken up across the country, the world is listening to the daily struggles we all face. Rather, we are writing today about a powerful new solution to end sexual harassment and assault against working women, and to ask for your help in bringing that solution to hundreds of thousands of more farmworker women across the country.
We are members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and we, together with our male co-workers, are building a new world for farmworkers, one in which we as women no longer face a daily barrage of catcalls, groping, and sexual assault in the fields. We have created that new world for tens of thousands of farmworkers under the protections of the Fair Food Program, the workplace monitoring program that has eliminated longstanding human-rights violations in the fields, from rape to modern-day slavery. The Fair Food Program is a proven, worker-driven model, tested in one of the harshest working environments this country has to offer. It has been acclaimed by human-rights and legal experts from the White House, to the United Nations, to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Fourteen of the world’s largest retail food companies support the program, agreeing to cut off purchases from growers who refuse to abide by an enforced code of conduct, failing to respect the dignity of their workers. Those companies include almost all the leading fast-food brands, from Taco Bell to McDonald’s.
All except Wendy’s. And that is why we need your help today.