You know that something serious is going on when I turn down Subway. Or when my co-worker Alex forgoes his weekly Chipotle burrito. Or when, as happened last night, my housemate laments finishing the last of her favorite sweet chili sauce from Whole Foods, because she knows that she might not buy another jar for quite a while–not until Whole Foods agrees to pay fair wages to the tomato pickers of Immokalee, Florida.
In the wake of Burger King’s agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) two weeks ago to pay fair prices to tomato pickers, other restaurants and food companies, including Whole Foods, Chipotle, Subway, and Wal-Mart, are experiencing an increased pressure to step up. The CIW has not yet announced official boycotts. But in the meantime, several of my friends and co-workers and I have been abstaining from shopping at the afore-mentioned stores.
Last night, after my housemate finished the last of her sauce, I opened up The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today for a bit of evening reading. The book’s author, Charles Marsh, traces Martin Luther King, Jr.’s development as a Christian leader for social justice during the year long boycott of the Montgomery bus system. When, in the book, the boycott finally achieves success in integrating city buses, Marsh lifts up some beautiful words that King spoke to the Christian community of Montgomery to celebrate their victory. In his address, King talks about the tactic of boycotting in the context of our spiritual kinship with one another:
“Freedom and Justice through Love.” Not through violence; not through hate; no, not even through boycotts; but through love. It is true that as we struggle for freedom in America we will have to boycott at times. But we must remember as we boycott that a boycott is not an end within itself; it is merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and challenge his false sense of superiority. But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
In the struggle for justice, it can be easy to get caught up in tactics, forgetting the larger goal of right relationship. For me, King’s words were a lovely expression of the spiritual grounding of boycotts, and I thought that it would be nice to share them with you.
For more information about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their campaign for justice in Florida’s fields, take a look at their website. To request postcards for yourself, your organization & your friends to send to Chipotle or Subway urging them to work with the CIW, send an email to workers [at] ciw-online.org, letting them know how many of each you would like to receive.
- For Alex’s reflections on holding stock in Whole Foods in light of their resistance to working with the CIW, check out his post from last week on Shareholder Advocacy.
- For the complete text of King’s 1956 address, see: “Facing the Challenge of a New Age.”