Tomatoes, Bases and Wall Street in Miami
By Susana Pimiento
Over twelve inches of rain poured on Miami over the Columbus Day weekend - not unusual for this time of year. Yet the rain didn’t stop the farm workers rallying for better wages, the antiwar activists raising awareness of militarization and waste taking place in their doorsteps nor workers, immigrants, students who articulated their discontent and joined with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On Saturday, October 8, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants, with young children in tow, had a rally at a busy intersection in northern Miami, in front of one of Publix supermarkets, one of the latest targets of their campaign. They were asking Publix to combat modern-day exploitation by paying one additional penny per pound of tomato - yes, just one cent per pound- and to adopt a code of conduct in the supermarket’s supply chain to ensure that farm workers are treated with dignity. With the support of many allies, including a wide range of interfaith groups, the Coalition has succeeded in bringing to the table and reaching agreements with some of the country’s largest corporations in the food industry, such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King. Whole Foods, and Subway - a clear reminder that “nothing is impossible.”
On Sunday, the pouring rain stopped just long enough to allow about a hundred people to march down to the Southern Command complex, in Doral, just west of Miami, to protest the impact of U.S. militarization in Latin America, which is planned and organized from precisely that military base. It was a colorful demonstration, with puppets and banners, and attended by a SOA Watch photovery diverse crowd of people, including students, local activists, and some of the Immokalee workers who the previous day had rallied with their young children. Many of the marchers had attended a seminar on the Southern Command and Militarization held in Saint Thomas University the previous evening.
Protesting against the Southern Command might seem quixotic to many. However, in the year of the Arab Spring it seemed natural to several of those who participated, to drive to the opposite side of Miami after the march was over and take part in the organizing of Occupy Miami. As they were preparing for the October 15 Wall Street Global Day of Action, participants at this organizing meeting connected the dots between the persisting economic inequality and injustice on one side, and the waste of resources in the futile ongoing wars and greed of corporate war profiteers, on the other.