Consumers to Picket Outside Publix for Refusal to Join Fair Food Program
On Sunday, September 2nd at 4pm, community members will protest outside the Publix located at 1400 East Colonial Drive in Orlando.
Conscientious consumers will gather to demand that Publix join the Fair Food Program, a unique partnership among farmworkers, tomato growers, and ten leading food retailers – including competitors Whole Foods and Trader Joes – that improves the wages and work conditions of Florida tomato harvesters.
Under the Fair Food program – described by the New York Times here as “possibly the most successful labor action in the U.S. in 20 years” — major buyers of tomatoes pay a premium of one penny per pound of tomatoes to be passed directly to farmworkers, and they work together with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to implement a code of conduct for employers in their tomato supply chains.
1) Publix has refused, giving three principal falsehoods to justify their non-participation: Publix calls the growing Fair Food collaboration among buyers, tomato growers and farmworkers ”a labor dispute” and says the company will not get involved in the labor disputes of its suppliers. The Fair Food Program is in fact the first large-scale partnership of its kind for real, lasting social accountability in the U.S. produce industry. For example, the Fair Food Code of Conduct and the manual prepared to assist growers in implementing the Code on their farms were developed in close collaboration among workers, growers, and buyers. Further, growers across the state of Florida welcome education teams from the CIW on their farms to help workers learn, on the clock, about their new rights under the Code. In this way, workers are empowered to help identify and address abusive bosses, dangerous practices, and other threats to the industry as a whole. Far from a labor dispute, the Fair Food Program is a vital and growing partnership – unless Publix would label any process in which workers have a voice a “labor dispute.”
2) Publix says that the penny should be “put in the price” the industry charges for tomatoes. The penny-per-pound premium is, in fact, built into the final price, on the invoices, for retailers who participate in the Fair Food Program and prefer to be billed that way. Those retailers simply pay for their tomatoes, as they always have, only now with a small premium built in, similar to any fair trade product. The accounting and distribution of the penny-per-pound funds are handled down stream in the supply chain, through the growers’ regular payroll, and audited by a third-party monitor. Ten multi-billion dollar corporations — Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. – have decided to participate in the Fair Food Program, most of them, in fact, by putting the penny in the price. Publix is free to do the same.
3) Publix says it won’t “pay employees of other companies directly for their labor.” In fact, participating buyers in the Fair Food Program do not pay farmworkers directly, not even close. As the Honorable Judge Laura Safer Espinoza, a former New York Supreme Court Justice who now serves as the director of the Fair Food Standards Council (the independent third-party monitoring organization of the Fair Food Program), told the Orlando Sentinel: “No corporate buyer pays a farmworker directly in the Fair Food Program. They pay a premium that gets passed down the supply chain to the workers, who are paid by the growers who employ them.”
Last Labor Day, after years of ignored attempts at correspondence, several farmworkers rode their bicycles 230 miles from Immokalee to Publix HQ in Lakeland in order to invite CEO Ed Crenshaw to Immokalee; Mr. Crenshaw refused to meet with them.