Where Stinginess Is Still A Pleasure
On Saturday, scores of tomato pickers and supporters called out Publix supermarket, again, for their refusal to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program.
For over one hour, the more than 75 persons holding signs reading, “Justice,” “Publix: Do The Right Thing,” and “Publix: Recognize Farmworkers’ Humanity,” and chanting “Down, Down with Exploitation and Up, Up with Fair Food Nation,” protested outside the Publix located at 400 E. Central Boulevard downtown Orlando.
Publix, for years, has refused to join other major food retailers to be part of the Fair Food Program that improves the wages and work conditions of Florida tomato harvesters. Major buyers of tomatoes, such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, already pay a premium of one penny per pound which is passed on by growers to farmworkers.
Despite Publix’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program, Oscar Otzoy, who leads the Coalition of Immokalee Workers believes that the pressure is building on the mega supermarket to act, as Saturday’s protest comes exactly one month before a two-week, 175-mile trek by foot to Publix Headquarters in Lakeland.
“We will continue to get the message out to even more Publix consumers so that they [Publix managers] can understand how many people want them to be a part of the Fair Food Program,” he said.
The Coalition has strong support from many faith-based communities and social justice groups across the state, including 1st Unitarian Church of Orlando, many of whose members participated in Saturday’s protest.
Dan Homblett, who chairs the Social Justice Coordinating Committee of 1st Unitarian Church of Orlando, also believes that the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is gaining ground in the fight for fairness and social justice for tomato pickers.
“The message is getting out that most people are willing to pay that one penny per pound for tomatoes and strongly support the Fair Food Program,” said Homblett. “We will continue with these marches and protests and ultimately the Coalition will prevail.”
At the conclusion of yesterday’s protest, the group handed over thousands of petitions and letters to Publix’s managers, urging that labor rights for tomato pickers be respected, and for on forwarding to their headquarters in Lakeland.
Publix has used spurious arguments for their non-participation in the Fair Food Program, including claiming that they don’t want to get involved in “a labor dispute” and that the penny should be “put in the price” the industry charges for tomatoes, which in fact, is already the case.
Saturday’s protest outside Publix came at the conclusion of a one-day workshop of strategizing and planning for future collaborative social justice actions in Central Florida and in which more than 40 different groups participated.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, friends and conscientious consumers will undertake a two-week, 175-mile trek from Fort Myers to Publix Headquarters in Lakeland, beginning March 3rd and concluding March 17.