Farmworkers will march for rights, respect and fair food

03/01/13 Lenka Davis
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The Coalition of the Immokalee Workers is starting its two week march for rights, respect and free food this Sunday. They are again calling on Publix to support human rights for Florida tomato-pickers. Farmworkers and their supporters will march 175 miles to draw attention to their cause.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, together with eleven major food corporations have established a partnership called the Fair Food Program to prevent sub-poverty wages, wage theft, sexual harassment and physical violence. Publix, however, with unmatched retail power in Florida, refuses to honor the agreement, which ensures one more penny per pound of tomatoes to its distributors.

That’s Santiago Perez, the CIW’s staff member, who says they have been trying to reach the agreement with Publix in person for more than three years.

Jake Ratner is one of the organizers of the march.

Perez says the farmworkers are not the only ones asking for Publix to get involved. The coalition has the support of consumers and students, as well.

As a farmer of seven years, Perez admits that supporting his family when farming hasn’t been easy.

Shannon Patten, media and community relations spokesperson for Publix, did not respond to requests for comment. However, in a statement, Publix says it will not pay the employees of other companies directly. Instead the company has repeatedly claimed the issue is a labor dispute between the farmworkers and their employers. With this kind of response, the initial problem still remains. The eleven corporations already involved in the Fair Food Program pay a penny per pound more directly to the farms where they get their produce, and the farms distribute that penny to the workers. Some of those companies include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and McDonald’s.

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