CIW’s Hypocrisy: The Penny Plunder Campaign
CIW’s corporate shakedowns, and its Penny-Per-Pound campaign, are celebrated and studied by aspiring activists and “Occupy” groups everywhere. The lesson: relentlessly smear big corporate brands, inflict enough financial damage to force a settlement, grab as much shakedown cash as you can and divvy up the spoils later. This ingeniously devised approach has worked perfectly. After enduring in some cases nearly a decade of relentless protests, a few brands simply had enough and handed over a bag of cash – their pounds of pennies – to CIW. For five years the likes of Taco Bell, Burger King, Whole Foods and Bon Appetit Management were paying out, but CIW couldn’t fulfill its end of the bargain. So while companies were paying their penny-per-pound as they had been pressured to do, the workers of Immokalee’s fields saw no bump in their pay.
The hypocrisy seems to be lost on CIW, as former Immokalee tomato pickers fight via class action lawsuit for the pennies they never received. For its part, the CIW says tracking down pickers from previous harvesting seasons would just be too difficult, so it’s just easier to give it to some current workers while also funding various community projects.
Those penny-per-pound protests were conducted to win an extra penny for every pound of tomatoes a worker picked. But now a decade later, many fieldworkers have been cheated out of a lot of pennies. What they did see was some wonderful “community theater and art.” According to tax records, that’s what the CIW was spending its money on as the pennies – now millions of dollars – were sitting in escrow accounts. And in the name of “Leadership Development,” the CIW was also providing “theater production” training. Given the street theater tactics used by the CIW to destroy the brands and reputations of its targets, this training in the dramatic arts probably does come in handy. But it sure doesn’t help a tomato picker pay the bills.