On Sunday, September 1st, I was honored to partake in the fight for fair food alongside my fellow YAYAs, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), and the First Unitarian Church of Orlando. Meeting across the street from the downtown Publix, as many as 50 picketers marched for farmworker rights. With signs in their hands, the picketers let their voice be heard through slogans and chants, such as “Publix, shame on you! Farmworkers are people too!” and “¡Publix, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!”
For several years, the CIW has successfully stood up for farm worker rights through their Fair Food Campaign, and is currently putting its pressure on Publix. While several other companies, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have signed the agreement, Publix has continually refused.
The agreement includes three simple conditions. First and foremost, an increase in worker wages, which would be accounted for by raising the price of tomatoes by only a penny per pound. Second, the agreement calls for an industry-wide Code of Conduct to be developed, with the participation of both industry and farm workers. This would insure that abuses in the workplace be avoided. Lastly, the agreement asks that when the growers and corporations make decisions involving the tomato industry, they do so with the equal input and consideration from farmworkers.
During the rally, a delegation went inside the Publix to meet with management in order to talk about these issues. Although it seemed fortunate that a Labor Relations manager would be there, the response from management was less than thrilling. They refused to discuss any of the farm worker issues with the delegation and simply kept telling them “Thank you for being here”, a response which clearly seemedinfluenced from higher corporate levels.
However, there was one important thing that did happen during the meeting: a Publix manager implied that the reason Publix refuses to sign the agreement is because the consumers do not want it. While absurd since most of us actually are Publix consumers, this does show how important it is for all of us tonot only continue to stand up as farm worker rights activists, but to also remind Publix at the corporate level of our status as their customers.
Although it looks like Publix is dead set on holding out, with continued pressure from CIW, YAYA, and Publix consumers, we can win the fight for farm worker justice.
¡SI, SE PUEDE!