Farmworkers protest at new Publix in Sarasota listen11/14/11 Doug Driscoll
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Yesterday, about 250 protestors packed the sidewalks in front of Sarasota’s newest Publix. They are asking the food giant to sign the Fair Food Agreement in support of tomato harvesters across Florida. For over two years, Publix has refused to support their request for what amounts to one penny more per pound, along with reasonable working conditions in the field.
The sidewalks were filled with protestors, chanting and marching around the edifice of the corporation’s newest retail store. Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a farm worker with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, says they are asking the supermarket giant to help with fair wages and improved working conditions by agreeing to support demands for what most would consider humane treatment.
The workers have wide support across the community, including inter-faith religious organizations. Pastor Steve Winemiller of Faith Lutheran Church, along with some of his congregation, were there to be a voice for those with none. He called on Publix, one of the community’s favorite stores, to negotiate with workers for what he considers basic, humanitarian reasons.
Workers say they are paid $0.50 per 32 pound basket of tomatoes. One penny more per pound means harvesters would receive a $0.82. The store’s retail price today for the same amount of tomatoes is more than $73. Christine O’Hern, a volunteer working with migrant women in Apopka, says what they are asking for amounts to little more than pocket change.
Reyes Chavez says that by refusing to negotiate with produce pickers, the store’s corporate leaders are consciously choosing to ignore the anguish of families working at one of the lowest paid jobs in America.
In a personal appeal, Reyes Chavez says he would ask them to consider that their goals in life are not so different.
Nine other corporations have signed the agreement, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Whole Foods. Publix did not return numerous calls for comment by deadline.