Photo by Juan Barredo.

On March 5, dozens of Florida farmworkers will stop eating. In a week-long Fast for Fair Food, they will sit on the grassy swards of Publix Supermarket headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., their weary bodies on display to the upper management of Florida’s largest private corporation. Those managers and chiefs have refused to sign something called the Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an agreement which would stop the company from purchasing tomatoes from suppliers who abuse workers, and pass on an extra penny per pound of tomatoes directly to the workers. After over two years of emails, petitions, letters, massive marches, and demonstrations, the farmworkers will turn to this most basic of arguments: we are real people, with vulnerable bodies that do not deserve the abuse they receive. And we are fiercely committed.

In a recent post, Barry Estabrook has clearly set out what is at stake for the farmworkers in this fast. He writes:

A strength of the Fair Food Agreement is that it links all levels of players in the tomato business in a unique partnership to improve working conditions: the men and women who pick and pack the fruits, the agricultural companies that operate the farms and packing facilities, and — critically — the end buyers of the tomatoes. Restaurant chains (including such giants as McDonald’s and Burger King) and food service providers support the agreement, which calls on them to pay an extra penny per pound directly to the workers, a raise of nearly 50 percent. But with the exception of Whole Foods Market and now Trader Joe’s, not a single grocery chain has agreed to participate.

Meanwhile, a parallel story is taking place. Because the fierce commitment doesn’t end with the farmworkers. Hundreds of others, who have perhaps never seen a tomato field, will be supporting and fasting with them, there and in solidarity actions around the country. A lot of them will be students and young people, like myself, organizing through the Student/Farmworker Alliance.