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Farmworker Freedom March rallies at Publix Headquarters in Lakeland

5:16 PM, Apr 18, 2010   |    comments
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Lakeland, FL - "Ahora! Justicia!" chanted hundreds of farmworkers and their supporters as they marched into Lakeland on Sunday.

Supporter Nicole Wahalan said, "People are slaving in fields. This is modern day slavery and working conditions are unbelievably poor."

To prove their point, the group marched from Tampa to Lakeland, starting on Friday.

In Spanish, farmworker Santiago Perez explained, "Part of the solution to all these problems is for corporations like Publix, which are buying all of the tomatoes, to pay one more cent per pound for the tomatoes."

Wielding signs that say "Oppression" and "Slavery," these folks want Publix to join them in their fight against low wages.

But the supermarket chain sees it as a labor dispute.

Spokesperson Shannon Patten said, "We believe they need to take those complaints back to their employer. We have a very long practice of not intervening between their employers and their employees and that's what this is."

As for claims of human rights violations, Publix calls it "unconscionable" to think the company would support something like that. "We are unaware of a single instance in our entire supply chain where there's a human rights violation," said Patten.

The workers don't buy it, instead demanding from the supermarket giant "zero tolerance for slavery in the supply chain of Publix."

That is why this Farmworker Freedom March culminated at the Publix Supermarkets headquarters in Lakeland, where they gave the company some food for thought as they chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho! Exploitation's got to go!"

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers organized this weekend's march. They say they just want Publix to join the other major food retailers, like McDonald's and Subway, that have already pledged to help improve wages and working conditions.

 

Erica Pitzi, 10 Connects Reporter

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