LESSON

Injustice on our Plates

From Viva La Causa, our teaching kit about César Chávez and the Delano Strike and Grape Boycott, this lesson examines consumer support of the ongoing struggles for justice and fairness.
Grade Level

Objectives

Activites will help students:

  • Explore contemporary boycotts launched by workers in search of justice.
  • Explore how social justice values can influence their consumer choices.
  • Use research skills to learn more about worker struggles for fairness and dignity.
  • Use writing skills to reflect on what they learn.
Essential Questions
  • What does it mean to treat workers fairly and with dignity?
  • How would you react if you learned that workers were exploited in the making of a favorite product or food?
  • How can our purchasing decisions give us power to fight against exploitation of workers?
Materials
  • A sheet of paper with "Dignity and Fairness for Workers" written on it, taped to the wall at eye level at the front of the room
  • Copies of the Boycotts for Worker Justice, 2008 handout
  • Internet access (optional)

Framework

As depicted in the film, the United Farm Workers called on Americans from all walks of life to boycott grapes so that the powerful growers would treat laborers fairly and with dignity. Today, in the U.S. and elsewhere, laborers continue to call upon consumers to support the ongoing struggle for justice and fairness.

This lesson focuses on three organizations with boycotts ongoing as of August 2008: the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (U.S.), SINALTRAINAL (National Union of Food Industry Workers, Colombia) and FENACLE (National Federation of Free Peasants and Indigenous People of Ecuador).

 

Procedures

Move the classroom desks out of the way so that there is enough space for students to move around. Ask students to move in front of the "Dignity and Fairness for Workers" sign, with their backs facing the sign.

Explain to students that you are going to ask a series of questions. For each question to which their answer is "yes," students should move forward. If they answer "no," they should remain in place. Ask students to remain respectfully silent.

  • Did you eat at Taco Bell any time before 2005?
  • At McDonalds, before 2007?
  • At Burger King, before May 2008?
  • Have you eaten at Chipotle Mexican Grill recently?
  • Have you had Coke, Diet Coke or other Coca-Cola product to drink recently?
  • Have you eaten a banana recently?

Maintaining their silence, ask students to turn around and reflect, for 30 seconds, on the distance between themselves and the "Dignity and Fairness for Workers" sign now in front of them. Explain softly to students that their purchasing choices — or those of their families — may well have silenced some workers' efforts to secure fair wages, safe working conditions and union representation.

Ask students to return their desks to their normal positions and have a seat.

Distribute the handout to students and allow time for them to digest its contents. Then facilitate a classroom discussion:

  • Had you thought about the power of your purchasing choices before engaging in this activity? Why?
  • Had you heard of these contemporary boycotts before participating in this activity? How can we increase our connectedness to workers who continue to be exploited?
  • How can we make our purchasing decisions more humane, individually, as a group, at home, at school and in our community?

 

Take Action (Optional)

Allow time for students to explore the websites listed on the handout. Many organizations provide downloadable action resources and organizing guides. Students can work in small groups to implement recommended action projects or create projects of their own design. Note: In classrooms not wired for the Internet, teachers should compile and print resources for student groups ahead of time.

 

Closing Activity

One of the mottos of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is "C + C = C," which means "Consciousness + Commitment = Change." Ask students to write a one-page reflection about how they can incorporate the lessons of C + C = C into their own lives.