IMMOKALEE, Fla. - Over 100 people in Immokalee boarded buses and rode in vans to make their way to Tampa to protest Publix Grocery Stores. Many of the people are farm workers who want the supermarket chain to pay workers a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked.
"Physically we're tired but inside we have a lot of hope," Lucas Benitez with the Coalition for Immokalee Farmworkers tells me.
Benitez knows many of his co-workers had long days of working in the fields, not getting home until 7 or 8 p.m., before coming straight to the coalition headquarters.
"We want to show to the public what is the reality behind Publix."
This group of protesters will join up with over 1,500 more in Tampa Friday to protest against Publix, one of the main buyers of tomatoes picked right in Immokalee.
Benitez says Publix doesn't want to pay the one penny more per pound of tomatoes the group is fighting for. According to him, the 40 to 45 cents per 32 pound bucket of tomatoes is a payment that hasn't changed since 1978.
So far, the coalition has successfully put pressure on such companies as McDonald's, Burger King and major food service leader Aramark to pay a penny more per pound.
"So when we ask one penny more per pound and Publix pays this, (it) represents almost double the wages for the farm worker," Benitez explains.
Protesters will be marching 25 miles from Tampa to Lakeland over the weekend, trying to show the supermarket giant they mean business. For those going on the trip, the days away from the fields will mean sacrifice at home. Especially, after many dealt with a rough winter that already picked their pockets clean.
"Three days represents a lot of efforts for us, but represent bigger steps in the campaign."
Once the buses reach Tampa, they will be dropping everyone off at different churches where many will be sleeping on the floor before beginning the rally at 9 a.m.
We tried to reach a representative from Publix, but were unsuccessful. In the past, Publix has said they pay market value and choose not to get involved in labor disputes of suppliers.