LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is embarking on a 2-week march to Publix headquarters in Lakeland, calling on the company to join the Fair Food Program.
The Fair Food Program is a partnership between farmworkers, growers, consumers and, currently, 11 major food corporations who support higher wages and more humane labor practices for tomato harvesters.
According to the coalition, farmworkers currently earn 2 cents per pound of tomatoes picked and must harvest more than 2 tons of tomatoes to make minimum wage (based on a 10-hour day).
Marchers are asking Publix to buy tomatoes from growers who support paying an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked as well as zero-tolerance for sexual harassment, forced labor, and child labor.
Starting in Fort Myers, workers and their supporters plan to march 200 miles to call attention to their plight.
"With each new corporation that joins, the wage increases and labor reforms grow and deepen," says Gerardo Reyes, of the coalition. "Publix's decision to turn its back on the FFP is so unconscionable. Its 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."
In a statement released by Publix Monday, the company says it "believe(s) farm work is hard, and... value(s) the relationships... established with... suppliers." However, the company says it has "consistently viewed this issue as a labor dispute" and does not want to get involved.
The coalition responded with this statement:
"The Fair Food Program is in fact the first large-scale partnership of its kind for real, lasting social accountability in the U.S. produce industry... Far from a labor dispute, the Fair Food Program is a vital and growing partnership - unless Publix would label any process in which workers have a voice a 'labor dispute.'"
For more information visit The Coalition of Immokalee Workers website.