Farmworkers protest at new Publix in Sarasota

11/14/11 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.

Student Farmworker Alliance

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I'm with Publix on this one

The price that Publix charges for tomatoes is based on what the market will support. The price that Publix pays isn't relevant. If the workers aren't satisfied with their pay, they should test free agency and apply their talents where they can earn better pay.

You do not know what you are talking about

Dont you think they have tried that already. Before you start talking about what you think you know, do some research. They wouldn't be doing this if it was not the proper way to handle it. Publix has the huge buying power and demand. They choose where they want their tomatoes from and the can choose to be socially responsible and make sure wherever they buy their tomatoes...the farmworkers are not being exploited.They can sign the code of conduct and pay the exra penny per pound which would barely make a dent in the corporation.

Take it up with the employers

The workers aren't Publix employees. If they want better wages, take it up with the farmers that hired them.


Sigh. Please don't feed the trolls; educate them.

Clerk, Peace & Social Concerns, Sarasota Quakers

I am shocked to see the comments disagreeing with the CIW's campaign. It is one of the most just and imaginative worker campaigns I have ever known, and its workers have no opportunity for alternative employment or assistance. Publix is simply being obtuse in its refusal to negotiate with them. As a loyal Publix customer for 35 years, I have stopped shopping there until they relent and act in a humane manner.


Chris Hedges on CIW vs. Publix: We Must check the Corporate Forces turning America into a Neo-Feudalist State...


I appreciated the links to the Op-Ed pieces that were shared. If you share those opinions and choose not to shop at Publix, I have no beef with that. I'll just have shorter lines at the checkout and more items to choose from on the shelves