Giant Delegation Reportback!

With a delegation of students and local allies from the labor movement, the sustainable food movement, and communities of faith, D.C. Fair Food joined the CIW on their Do the Right Thing Tour to tell Ahold USA at their HQ in Landover, MD, that they need to step up as a leader in the supermarket industry and sign an agreement with the CIW!

Check out the video on our Media! page and the photo essay below…

Day Three Update
Delegation Visit to Giant Headquarters
Landover, MD
March 1, 2010


Another day, another delegation of farmworkers and allies turned away by a supermarket industry leader. 

This time it was the mid-Atlantic retail food chain Giant (one of Ahold’s principal properties here in the US along with Stop & Shop) …


… that turned down the CIW’s offer of dialogue, using these two guys to convey the message that nobody at Ahold wanted to meet with the CIW delegation.

Day Three of the Do the Right Thing Tour — a day that opened on a crisp, clear morning, much welcome after 48 hours of snow and rain — brought the CIW to the doorstep of the company’s headquarters in a nondescript corporate park near Landover, Maryland. 

The delegation, led by three CIW members (who appear on the left in this photo), included representatives from the local Presbyterian Church, labor (the Teamsters, who are organizing a sector of Giant’s drivers), the National Family Farm Coalition, and students from various local universities.


But despite the diversity and commitment of the delegation members, Giant executives would have none of their offer of an informal, informational meeting. 

This, of course, didn’t sit well with the rest of the CIW crew, who broke out in protest following the delegation’s rejection at the hands of Giant’s security.


With Giant’s headquarters as their backdrop, CIW members and their allies brought their call for a fairer, more humane food industry…

… to the otherwise lifeless corporate park.

As if inspired by the company’s cold silence and the challenge of the sterile setting, one CIW member launched into an impromptu theater, turning the neatly landscaped shrubbery…

… into a version of his own office, a tomato field in Immokalee. He was soon joined by another worker, who assumed the role of the field boss, and together they brought the daily abuse and humiliation faced by the people who pick tomatoes in Florida’s fields vividly to life. 

And in that moment, those gathered for the protest witnessed a most remarkable buckling of space and time: The Florida fields that for decades have provided a steady supply of tomatoes for Giant produce aisles in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia suddenly and incongruously came to collide with the distant corporate headquarters that, for all those years, has played such an influential role in the lives of the farmworkers who picked those tomatoes.


The virtual reality of the improvised theater prompted the delegation members to hold their own virtual meeting with Giant executives…

… with allies and workers telling Giant — or, rather, the bricks and tinted windows that stood-in for company representatives — the messages they would have conveyed had they been able to go through with the meeting.

Santiago Perez of the CIW spoke of the hard-fought advances underway today in the fields — of higher wages, more humane work hours, and the end of the decades-old demand that workers overfill their buckets — and of Giant’s inexcusable abdication of its responsibility to contribute to those advances…

… while Julia de la Cruz, also of the CIW, spoke of the challenges faced by women forced by circumstances to seek a living harvesting tomatoes, challenges that include the constant threat of sexual harassment and the more subtle tyranny of unreachable production quotas.

After just under an hour, the Do the Right Thing crew wrapped up the action and left Giant’s headquarters without so much as a sign of life from the supermarket behemoth. 

But as they began to walk back to the bus to continue their way south, one of the workers noticed a small, hand-written sign in the window of the building immediately adjacent to Giant’s offices. Behind the sign could be made out a figure, someone that appeared to be waving at the departing workers.


The crew stopped in its tracks for a closer look. 

And, to the amazement of all, the message — pressed mutely to the tinted window of the brick building that looked identical in almost every way to every other building in the vast corporate park, including that of its neighbor, Giant — said:

Justice

A worker — a person with a heart and a mind of his or her own — saw the CIW workers and their rejection at the hands of Giant, stopped whatever it was they were doing, grabbed a piece of office paper and a company issued marker, and wrote out an urgent message of love for the farmworkers locked out of the offices that have profited so richly from their labor for so long.

And just like that, the facade of cold, uncaring power that Giant sought to project fell away, revealing the humanity on the other side of the opaque glass and brick walls. With one intensely human gesture, all the strength was stripped from Giant’s stony silence.

Yes, the person who sent the message doesn’t work for Giant, but that doesn’t matter. Both we and the executives who run Giant know — and this sign confirms — that human beings seek justice, and that circumstances of stark injustice are, sooner or later, unsustainable.

The change that workers in Immokalee have sacrificed so much for is going to come. And Giant will be a part of that change. Because human beings run Giant, too.


For more on the CIW visit to Giant headquarters: 

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