Sarasota, Florida -- Over 150 farmworkers will walk 200 miles in two weeks to get the attention of Publix.
On Saturday, March 9th, farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their consumer allies from across the state will march up 41 to the Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland. Marchers are calling on the Florida-based grocery giant to honor the breakthrough social responsibility partnership for farm labor reform known as the Fair Food Program.
When the marchers reach Publix, local residents will join them for a picket at the Publix on 41 at Bay Street at 1:30 PM; then, at 7 PM, farmworkers will perform a theatre piece about the importance of Publix joining the Fair Food Program at the Caples Bayfront on New College's Campus.
The Fair Food Program (FFP) brings together farmworkers, growers, consumers, and eleven multi-billion dollar retail food leaders in support of fair wages and humane labor standards for tomato harvesters.
Despite the FFP's unprecedented success in bringing about long-overdue labor reforms in Florida's $500-million tomato industry, Publix, one of the largest purchasers of Florida tomatoes, refuses to support the program and continues to buy tomatoes from the handful of Florida growers where workers are denied access to the FFP's higher standards, complaint mechanism, and "penny-per-pound" bonus.
"The Fair Food Program is something all of us can all be proud of -- labor rights advances that are setting the bar for social responsibility in the US produce industry today," said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. "But while the changes we are seeing in farmworkers' lives today are indeed unprecedented, there is still much to be done. Publix's support, which would cost Publix little or nothing, could significantly change the lives of some of the state's hardest workers, yet the $28 billion company won't even show farmworkers the respect of granting us a meeting to discuss the Fair Food Program face-to-face."
Marchers will begin in Ft. Myers and head north up the west coast of Florida along Highway 41, one of the state's busiest commercial corridors, to Tampa. Along the way, they will talk with tens of thousands of consumers about the Fair Food Program and Publix's failure to meet the program's social responsibility standards.
"We are going to take our case directly to the consumers through our presence in the streets, through nightly meetings with supporters in churches, schools, and community halls along the way, and through our voices in the media," added the CIW's Oscar Otzoy. "We will not rest until Publix realizes that the 21st century supermarket cannot afford to turn its back on human rights."