Born in action
The spark that ignited SFA was the 230-mile March for Dignity, Dialogue and a Fair Wage from Ft. Myers to Orlando, Florida, led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in February 2000. This march provided the opportunity for students from several Florida colleges to learn about and directly participate in the movement to end "sweatshops in the fields."
Since then, SFA has been at the forefront of a resurgent farmworker solidarity movement, organizing around the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food starting with the Taco Bell boycott in 2001.
In 2005, farmworkers from the CIW and their allies scored a decisive victory in the national Taco Bell boycott. Yielding to growing nationwide pressure from the CIW, students, and other allies, Taco Bell and its parent company Yum! Brands—the world’s largest restaurant corporation—conceded to all of the boycott’s demands, agreeing to work with the CIW to improve the sub-poverty wages and miserable working conditions of farmworkers in its tomato supply chain. During the Taco Bell Boycott, 25 high schools, colleges and universities removed or prevented Taco Bell restaurants and sponsorships as part of SFA’s Boot the Bell campaign.
Following the Taco Bell victory and seeking to expand the victory's precedents to the entire tomato industry, the CIW led successful campaigns resulting in “Fair Food” agreements with McDonald's, Burger King, Whole Foods and Subway. Once again, students and youth played a vital role in this string of victories that spanned 2007-2008.
SFA returned to intensive campus organizing with the launch of the Dine with Dignity campaign in March of 2009, calling on major food service providers to take responsibility for the conditions in which the produce they serve is harvested. In just 16 months, four of the nation's leading food service companies (Bon Appétit, Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo) agreed to work with the CIW.
These Fair Food victories and the critical mass of tomato purchasing power they represent contributed greatly to the watershed agreements reached in late 2010 between the CIW and Florida growers to expand the CIW's Fair Food code of conduct to over 90% of the Florida tomato industry.
Since then, SFAers have played key roles in victories against both Trader Joe's and Chipotle Mexican Grill. On January 16, 2014 —in a testament to the immense power built by students, farmworkers, and other allies over the course of two decades — the world's largest retailer, Walmart, also joined the Fair Food Program (FFP), ushering in the expansion of the Program beyond Florida and beyond tomatoes for the first time ever.
Now, as we have in each of the historic "Fair Food" agreements thus far, students will play an indispensable role in breaking the resistance of corporate holdouts like Wendy's and Publix: the only remaining obstacle to a future of fair wages and working conditions in the fields. On campuses across the country, students have pledged to "Boot the Braids", organizing to sever Wendy's licensing contracts until the company joins its fast food competitors as part of the FFP. Throughout the Southeast, young people have picketed, fasted, and marched on Publix stores to send a message that - at least until it commits to the FFP - the supermarket giant will never earn our generation's consumer loyalty.
In sum, SFA has been a driving force behind 14 of the largest victories against corporate greed that our generation has seen, and we're only just getting started.