Published: Aug 28, 2011 4:18 AM EDT
Updated: Aug 29, 2011 3:26 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The bicycle delegation from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) – an internationally-recognized human rights organization based in Immokalee, FL – will be joined by Ft. Myers community members in both a lively picket and a community bike ride in efforts to urge Publix to join a growing partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and retail food giants aimed at ending decades of farm labor abuse in Florida.

Florida farmworkers have long faced brutal conditions in the fields, including sub-poverty wages, widespread labor rights violations, and even modern-day slavery. Today, however, there is hope on the horizon, thanks to the efforts of farmworkers, Fair Food activists, Florida tomato growers, and nine food industry leaders (including Publix competitor Whole Foods) who have joined in support of the CIW's Fair Food principles, including a penny-per-pound piece rate wage increase, a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process.

Last November, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) signed an agreement to extend these principles to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields.  Publix, however, is refusing to do its part, and if they have their way, the unprecedented farm labor transformation promised by the CIW's landmark agreement with the FTGE would be significantly diminished. That's because the solution to farm labor exploitation and abuse contained in the Fair Food principles depends on the participation of all the major purchasers of Florida tomatoes.

Each buyer must contribute its fair share – its penny-per-pound – for the pay raise to reach its full potential. Each buyer must commit to direct its purchases to those growers complying with the code of conduct – and away from those who don't – for working conditions to get better and stay better.