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Billy Unotti

ENC 3331
Feb 2014
Dr. Wardle

Rhetorical Analysis of the YAYA Network of the National
Farm Worker Ministry’s Campaign for Equality and Justice

Slavery has never been a thing of the past. In 2014, a human rights crisis is finally being brought
into the light. The workers who harvest tomatoes are experiencing unimaginable infringements
on basic human rights and were exploited, underpaid, and abused. Finally, the Youth and Young
Adult Network decided that it was time to take action. According to their website, they envision
a society where farm work is a respected, desirable job with good working conditions and the
same labor protections provided to other types of employment in the U.S. (July 2009.) Vision.
Retrieved from http://nfwm-yaya.org/about/vision/. The Ministry has partnered with the workers
and the community to build on an already existing campaign: The Fair Food Program, designed
to provide an opportunity for sustainable solutions. All of these efforts combine to form an
impressive example of civic engagement. In this paper, the rhetoric strategies and appeals used in
order to obtain the ultimate goal of a higher quality of life are extensively analyzed.
Establishing a Rhetor
The person or organization who is partaking in social action is a rhetor. (Palczewski, Ice, &
Fritch, 2012.) It is crucial to determine who is producing the content as early as possible. This
situation, though tricky, simply has multiple rhetors: The farm workers themselves, who have
their own organization called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and who are then represented

by YAYA, which is then made up of everyday citizens who are carrying out strong involvement
as well as communication. This is done through letter writing, appeals to government, marches,
peaceful protests, and more. These symbolic acts are the reason why YAYA and its participants
are the authoritative figures. One of the main reasons why YAYA’s mission is so necessary can
be demonstrated simply through realizing who the rhetor is, or rather, who it isn’t: because of the
aforementioned injustices, the farm workers don’t possess enough rhetorical agency, or capacity
to act in a way that will be recognized by the community, to defend themselves. (Palczewski, Ice,
& Fritch, 2012.) That is why caring individuals in the community have had to step up and join
the movement. This melting pot, unfortunately, may make it difficult for the audience to
understand the identity of the rhetor. But they are set in their mission and unified in their
determination for justice for farm workers, and this goes a long way toward gaining not only the
audience’s approval, but their respect through credibility.
The Aristotle Appeals
Out of the three most commonly referenced persuasive devices, ethos, the appeal to credibility is
an excellent start. In this instance, good character is determined through many avenues,
beginning with the fact that YAYA is an advocate for those with less power and a lower socioeconomic status. Aristotle teaches us that character is comprised of three dimensions: practical
wisdom, virtue, and goodwill. (Palczewski, Ice, & Fritch, 2012. p. 153) The first is showcased in
one of their print pieces through reason and common sense: “If you ate today, you connected to a
farm worker.” (YAYA. n.d. Justice for Farmworkers [Pamphlet]). This is fairly straightforward,
is not accusatory on the audience, but it does place a certain level of responsibility on the reader.
Next, they increase the effectiveness of sharing values and how they put the needs of the
audience above their own. Consistently throughout YAYA’s textual campaign, they stress the

honest, hard work that the farmers put in for long hours and low wages. They put the relatable
issue of injustice at the forefront of the discussion, using phrases like “social accountability” and
“exploitation”. The farmer’s perseverance through difficult struggles is shown to be courageous
and selfless. The money they earn is for their families, and without them, the entire tomato
agriculture industry that we depend on, would be lost. If we rely so heavily on a group of people
who continually deliver, why can’t you take this moment to help them out?
A campaign so rooted in social tragedy would be nothing without an incredibly effective appeal
to the emotions, and YAYA does not disappoint. The Publix campaign is an excellent example.
One of the goals is to get Publix, Florida’s home grocery store that takes great pride in the
pleasant, family experience of the shopper, has refused to join the Fair Food Program to help
secure the CIW new rights and responsibilities. Phrases such as “a new day of dignity has
dawned”, “grinding poverty”, and simply the addition of the word “slavery”, one so rooted in
human horrors, increase the pathos of the rhetor.
Social Roles
One of the most startlingly effective parts of the campaign is how well defined the roles of
audience and rhetor are. Mystification, the process of distancing the rhetor from the audience so
they are granted authority, (Palczewski, Ice, & Fritch, 2012. p. 156.) is essentially reversed.
Although YAYA and CIW are asking for your attention, the authority is ultimately on those with
rhetorical agency: the audience. In each statement, the audience couldn’t be more removed from
the Immokalee Workers’ lives: extreme poverty, illegal immigration, 18 hour work days, and
more detail a life virtually unknown to the typical Publix consumer. This is the one place where I
believe the campaign may face some difficulties. They did such a wonderful job bringing the
often unseen lifestyle of the farm workers out of the darkness that they didn’t give the audience

many ways to identify with their rhetor. Yes, they have the shared human experience, and every
human can have a certain level of understanding of another. Unfortunately, the comfortable life
of the audience seems years away from the modern day slavery conditions they experience. So
while it continues to be an excellent testament to the emotions, some recipients of the rhetoric
may not be able to make the connection.
Audience
Palczewski, Ice, & Fritch couldn’t have defined audience more effectively: audience is the
element that distinguishes rhetoric from purely expressive forms of communication. (p. 179.)
There is no rhetor without someone to hear, read, or see the symbolic action. Next, we must find
those capable of being permeated by the message, or the rhetorical audience. This not necessarily
those who feel identified with the farm workers, as discussed previously. As long as there is a
moment of consubstantiality, where the audience member can briefly see themselves in the heart
wrenching predicaments of the workers, then there is a chance for effective communication. This
brings up an interesting point: when it comes to civic engagement, just because the message was
communicated doesn’t make the interaction successful. It comes down to whether the audience
heeds the call to action.
One difficulty that the CIW and YAYA have faced is changing the attitude that the audience
feels about the farm workers. Since the conditions are so poor and they are so poverty stricken,
many have the potential to dismiss them as the lowliest members of society. There is also a huge,
national stigma attached to the fact that some of them are illegal immigrants. While some
encounter problems with citizenship, the audience should, and needs to, understand that some
things simply aren’t black and white. YAYA effectively addresses this through their own
attitude: no matter what, the Florida agricultural tomato industry is going to continue, and they

are going to exploit vulnerable migrant workers. Since we can all accept that this is going to be
happening no matter what, we need to act not to make it as bearable as possible.
The Question of Civic Engagement
As the audience is finally addressed, we must also analyze just exactly how they are involving
themselves. Henry Brady defines political participation as “action by ordinary citizens directed
toward influencing some political outcomes… through deliberate attempts to influence people in
power.” (Ekman, J. & Amna, E. 2009. Political Participation and Civic Engagement: Towards A
New Typology.) The Fair Food Program is legally binding and enforceable between the CIW
and retailers. You can assume that the audience is engaging in what Eckman and Amna call
manifest political participation through legal activism. Very simply… they are regular people
making a difference for someone other than themselves!