This weekend, five UC Davis students are choosing protesting over Picnic Day.
Beginning today and concluding on Sunday, five UC Davis students will participate in the Farmworker Freedom March, a 22-mile march from Tampa to Lakeland, Fla. in protest against poor working conditions for farm laborers.
The march is one of a series of protests by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), who lead the Campaign for Fair Food, an effort to abolish what they call “modern-day slavery.”
The three-day march targets Publix, Florida’s largest supermarket chain which protestors believe has failed to adopt the principles for the Campaign for Fair Food. The principles include raising the wages of farm workers, giving farm workers a voice, and enforcing consequences if Publix fails to comply.
Primarily supported by fundraising, the Students for Sustainable Agriculture asked ASUCD for $580 to make up for the remaining costs of airfare. Senate Bill 53, a bill addressing their request for $580 was passed by ASUCD Senate but vetoed by ASUCD President Jack Zwald.
“In passing this bill, the association is setting a precedent that I do not find acceptable,” Zwald wrote in an announcement of his veto. “Because of the association’s responsibility to remain viewpoint neutral in these types of situations, if someone with a similar event came to us and submitted a bill that was fiscally sound and legal, we would be obligated to give this group the money even if ASUCD disagreed with its goal, motive or viewpoint.”
The bill stirred-up dialogue on campus over the allocation of ASUCD funds for such an event at last week’s senate meeting, when the bill was introduced as an urgent piece of legislation.
“It’s important to know this isn’t a vacation to Florida, the students are serious,” said Abhram Castillo-Ruiz, co-author of the bill. “As an agricultural school, this protest requires the attention of UC Davis.”
The CIW is currently deliberating with on-campus food service corporation Sodexo, and several other food service providers to farm workers $0.01 per pound of tomatoes.
Sodexo committed to pay farm workers the additional cent and to purchase only from producers who meet the code of conduct. The penny per pound campaign has not yet been implemented by Sodexo, who is waiting for CIW to determine the easiest method of payment.
“It’s important that all five of us be there [Florida] to share our information with UCD when we return,” said Liz Fitzgerald, team leader of Village Harvest Davis. “Tabling only does so much. People need to connect with others and see the workers to understand.”
GABRIELLE GROW can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.