During the weekend of November 6-8 members of the Las Vegas Industrial Workers of the World, in conjunction with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas and Southern NV ALL, attended the Living Without Borders encuentro sponsored by the United Coalition for Im/migrant Rights (U.C.I.R.), which was held at UNLV. On the final day of the encuerto, we took part in a demonstration against the Chipotle across from campus organized by MEChA de UNLV in support of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (S.F.A.) and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (C.I.W.) and other farm workers who often work very long hours for wages that average below the poverty level.
The LV IWW, along with Fellow Worker Paul Lenart from the Reno IWW, rallied with other groups from the encuerto in solidarity with fellow workers being exploited by agriculture suppliers in Florida and throughout the industry. The demonstration was for the most part uneventful and garnered some support from passing cars and bystanders. However, at one point a group of Metro policemen (at least 10) descended upon us to preserve order by demanding to know who our leaders were and arrogantly declaring they were going to "teach us how to protest" so they wouldn't "have to" arrest anyone. Things got a bit tense after we responded that we didn't believe in hierarchies and therefore had no leaders and Paul informed the officer who was trying to tutor us on protesting that we weren't required to walk in a circle, as his lesson plan called for us to do. Not long after, a Metro sergeant arrived, spoke to us briefly, agreed that we didn't need to walk in a circle, wished us luck, and told the other Metro officers to leave. The rest of the morning was once again pretty uneventful and rather fun in general. In addition to displaying signs to passersby, we also provided people entering or exiting Chipotle with printed information about the C.I.W.'s grievances, resulting in several instances where potential customers turned away.
The C.I.W. is a community-based organization composed mainly of Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. They have been organizing workers in the agriculture industry since1993 to fight for fair wages, better working conditions, and more respect from bosses, among other issues. Since 2001, they have been using targeted boycotts of fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and other large tomato buyers to encourage them to agree to pay one penny per pound more for tomatoes and other produce directly to the workers who picked them. The resulting increase is minimal for the buyers (25 cents/box), but could increase the average farmworker's wages by 2/3's of the current approximate salary of $10,000/year. In the recent past, such boycotts have successfully led to agreements with