Students protest for farmworkers in Quincy

by Ryan Catalani / Beacon Staff • April 12, 2012

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Freshmen Andrea Nunes and Sarah Rocha participate in a protest for better working conditions for farmworkers in front of Stop & Shop’s New England office in Quincy, Mass.
Freshmen Andrea Nunes and Sarah Rocha participate in a protest for better working conditions for farmworkers in front of Stop & Shop’s New England office in Quincy, Mass.

QUINCY – Nearly 50 people, including seven Emerson students, gathered outside of Stop & Shop’s New England headquarters through constant rain to protest what they say are unfair labor conditions supported by the supermarket chain.

The protest was organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which last year forged, as the New York Times reported, an “extraordinary agreement” with tomato buyers, including corporations like McDonald’s and Burger King, to increase the pay of farmworkers by one cent per pound of tomatoes they pick.

The group now wants Stop & Shop to consent to the same agreement. “The goal,” said Elena Stein, who works at Interfaith Action, an organization which partners with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, “is to bring Stop & Shop executives to a place where they see farmworkers not as tools in a supply chain, but as men and women whose work of supplying produce for their stores is deserving of nothing less than dignity and respect.”

Many of the Emerson students who attended the protest are in Tamera Marko’s research writing classes, where representatives from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers talked on Monday.

Enrique Rivera, a freshman visual and media arts major, learned about the protest through Marko’s class. “It’s something really cool that people are working together despite the rain,” he said.

Protesters demonstrated for about two hours, chanting both in English and Spanish, staging a dramatization of the workers’ conditions in the farms, and asking a representative from Stop & Shop to deliver some materials from the protesters to the company’s executives.

“Hearing an actual farmworker come to out class and talk about their experience really encouraged me to come here,” said Valeria Pachon, a freshman marketing major, who is also in one of Marko’s classes.

“I want my food to be good not because its tomatoes are exploited, but from people who are well paid,” she said.