Publix Under Fire from Religious Leaders, Farm Workers

Publix is taking heat this week from a group of farm workers, religious leaders and students, and it all centers around a penny.

What protestors want is for Publix to sign an agreement that would advance the human rights of farm workers and the long-term industry of Florida’s tomato industry, according to a release.

What it would do for the popular grocery store chain is cost it an extra penny per pound on tomatoes.

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Organizers are gathering Monday in Florida to begin a six-day fast in support of the initiative, which is called the Fair Food Program.

The group claims Publix and others have “exploited” tomato workers, who are among the worst paid and least protected, according to a release.

"We want Publix to recognize our humanity," Nely Rodriguez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization mainly of immigrants employed in low-wage jobs in Florida, said in a statement. "We want the people who run Publix to sit at the table with us and look us in the eye and tell us what good reason they have for not joining the Fair Food Program. We want Publix to explain to us how they can claim to be a responsible neighbor given the way they have behaved toward farm workers and misled their customers for the past several years.”

In a statement to FreshPlaza, Publix has said it “is more than willing to pay a penny more per pound, or whatever the market price for tomatoes will be in order to provide the goods to our customers."

Publix said the emphasis is on market price, which the grocery store has no role in setting.

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"This is a labor dispute, and we simply aren't involved," a Publix spokeswoman told FreshPlaza.

The protest was initially targeted at Trader Joe’s, according to organizers, but it signed the agreement, joining chains like Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald’s and Whole Food that have also signed it.

If Publix does not sign it by Saturday, protesters plan on ending this week’s fast by marching three miles to Publix headquarters in the Lakeland area.

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