Farmworkers continue Publix protests in St. Petersburg

02/14/11 Janelle Irwin
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Farm workers remain in a stand-off with Publix regarding a penny per pound increase in the cost of tomatoes. Publix refuses to compromise, but protesters are not backing down anytime soon.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their supporters protested in front of two St. Petersburg Publix Supermarkets Saturday. The group brandished signs reading “Publix Profits from Poverty” and others with similar messages. They wore mocking green shirts that said “Poverty” instead of “Publix” and they chanted “Justice for Immokalee” to passing motorists. Immokalee worker Leonel Perez said workers need Publix to support fair wages and working conditions.

Publix spokesperson Shannon Patten continues to say they will not get involved in this matter.

But Patten said it’s not that Publix is insensitive to the Immokalee struggle. She said they have granted farm worker requests to purchase from certain tomato growers. Protest organizer Amanda Silby said, not only is that not enough, the concession came at an opportune time for Publix.

Patton said Publix will pay the market value for the goods, but that price needs to be negotiated between the workers and the growers or packers.

Silby said even politicians are urging corporations to take action.

She said there are loop holes allowing the poverty level wages received by Immokalee workers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers made headway in their fight in November when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange agreed to ensure the penny per pound increase was passed on to workers. They will continue their efforts to persuade Publix with another protest in Tampa on March 4 and 5.

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