Publix: the Harvest of Shame Continues

I’ve just watched “Harvest of Shame” again. It was first broadcast 52 years ago, and it’s hard to believe that we still do not have justice for laborers in the field. But, then again, maybe I shouldn’t be so outraged or surprised; capitalism is still churning along, stronger than ever. How did Edmund Burke put it? “All that is necessary for evil to exist is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” Has history taught us nothing?
I’m a teacher. I firmly believe that education is the way to help us all out of a great many social, economic, and environmental problems. I do not hold to the belief that everyone is meant for greatness. I also do not hold to the assumption that some are meant for entitlement. My Catholic faith tells me that we are all unique and that we are all children of God. What that belief demands of me is to treat all people, and indeed all creation, with the utmost respect. So, how is it that so many “Christians” can so easily turn a blind eye to the cause and effects of their behavior? I am amazed at how many people I meet who just shrug in a kind of blase surrender to their own admission of weakness over their selfish consumption and laziness. It’s not powerlessness, it’s weakness & laziness.
The recent Presidential Elections made it impossible for me to stay silent any longer. If I had to listen to one more person (making 2-5 times more money than me) tell me how bad our economy is, I think my head may have exploded! THEY are the reason why the “economy” is bad and why there is poverty in the world! Greed, privilege, consumerism, materialism, capitalism… Whatever “ism” you label it, THAT is the evil that is allowed to exist. As long as individuals and whole demographics continue to feel entitled, there will be enslaved laborers in sweat shops making our clothing, in sweat shops of soil harvesting our food, in sweat shops manufacturing our electronics, in a hopeless cycle of poverty.
Consumers in First World countries need to open their eyes to their part in all of this. How full does a refrigerator have to be? When was the last time you threw out food that had gone bad? How often do you stop & grab something “quick & easy” at the supermarket because you just don’t feel like eating leftovers or making dinner after a long day at the office? Migrant workers put in 10-12 hour days six days a week. They don’t have the option of stopping somewhere for dinner. There is no option; they have to make dinner when they get home. The trouble is, they don’t make a living wage to even afford to purchase most of the food they just spent their entire day harvesting!
I’m not trying to sound “holier than thou”; I ask myself these questions all the time. At least twice a week I weigh the pros & cons of stopping on the way home from school for something “easy” for dinner. That’s the key word, “easy”. So I tell myself that every time I do something to make my life “easier” I’m consuming something that I can never replace.
This week the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is hosting a Thanksgiving Week of Action against some of the supermarkets who refuse to sign the Fair Food Program’s Code of Conduct which would be a step toward improving the lives of migrant workers and their families. I plan on participating by delivering letters to Publix managers in my area. Check out what stores in your area refuse to care about workers rights, and make an effort to make a change. Go to the CIW link above for more info & resources.
Gandhi once said: “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” I love Gandhi!


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