Publix Slammed for Stinginess
Pressure continues to mount on Publix Supermarket, the mega chain of supermakets that for three years has refused to pay Florida tomato growers just an extra penny per pound, for each bucket of tomatoes picked.
Beginning today, about 150 persons — faith leaders, students, community leaders and more than 60 farmworkers began a six-day fast outside Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland. The group hopes to raise awareness of Publix’s role in blocking progress in the fields and expanding the rights of the farmworkers who harvest the nation’s food.
“Publix’s motivations for not signing the Fair Food Code of Conduct, is hard to fathom,” said Jordan Buckley of Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida, one of the organizers of the Fast. “They continue to say they don’t want to be involved in labor disputes.” Another excuse we hear is that, Publix will be happy to participate if the penny is in the price, but that’s precisely where it is, Buckley adds.
Over the last few years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers from which the Fair Food Program emerged, has been successful in getting a number of fast food giants that purchase Florida tomatoes, to join the program. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and Subway, among others, are all members of the Campaign for Fair Food. As well, supermarkets chains like Whole Foods and most recently Trader Joe’s, have signed on. Most have agreed to pay an extra 1.5 cents more per pound for tomatoes. Growers then pass on this increase to farmworkers.
But not Publix. Florida’s largest corporation, with $27 billion in sales last year and $1.5 billion in profits, remains indifferent to the Campaign for Fair Food.
“We want Publix to recognize our humanity,” said Nely Rodriguez of the CIW. “We want the people who run Publix to sit at the table with us and look us in the eye and tell us what good reason they have for not joining the Fair Food Program. We want Publix to explain to us how they can claim to be a responsible neighbor given the way they have behaved toward farmworkers and misled their customers for the past several years. I don’t believe they would be able to look us in the eye and justify these things. And if not, they need to come forward and do what is right.”
Buckley said he expects the six-day Fast outside Publix’s corporate headquarters, culminating in a three-mile march on Saturday, March 10, at Publix Supermarket, 3636 Harden Boulevard, Lakeland, will once more raise the public’s awareness of Publix’s unconscionable indifference and put pressure on the supermarket to sign on.
Several notable supporters are expected to visit the fasters over the course of the week-long campaign. These include: Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Brian McLaren, (author, A New Kind of Christianity) and Barry Estabrook (author, Tomatoland) are among the many civic, faith, student, and community leaders who will be visiting the fasters over the course of the week-long action. Rev. Michael Livingston, former President of the National Council of Churches and current Director of NCC’s Poverty Initiative will join the fasters for the six-day Fast.
The Campaign for Fair Food affirms the human rights of tomato workers and aims to end decades of farmworker poverty and degradation.
For more information on the Campaign for Fair Food, visit: ciw-online.org.