- Alayne Unterberger
- WAGE OF CONSENT: Protesters urge a livable wage for tomato workers at the Gandy Publix. The grocery chain is one of the holdouts that has not agreed to pay more for the crop.
The 2013 Labor Day Weekend has been more resonant than the barbecue-a-thon of previous years, as local and national organizations voiced their right to make a livable wage.
During the holiday weekend, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — a membership-led farmworker organization comprised mostly of Latino, Haitian and Mayan-Indian immigrants — protested at Florida Publix grocery stores. They made a stop at the Gandy Boulevard Publix on Saturday at sunset.
Publix has not yet signed onto CIW's Fair Food Program. As part of that program, CIW has reached agreements with Taco Bell and its parent company Yum Brands, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods, Bon Appétit Management Co., Compass Group, Aramark, and Sodexo to pay a penny more a pound for tomatoes toward farmworker wages and working conditions. The coalition's current supermarket campaign has also called on the Kroger Co., Ahold USA (parent company of Stop & Shop and Giant) and Trader Joe's to pony up and pay workers more than what they've been earning for nearly a half-century.
Members of the Coalition are boycotting Publix but do not urge Publix customers to do the same, said Alayne Unterberger, a local activist and anthropology professor who works on behalf of the Coalition and the Florida Institute of Community Studies (an immigrant outreach group based in Tampa). She said the coalition requests that Publix shoppers print and sign this letter to help the coalition reach an agreement.
"Saturday's dusk action marks four years of constant pressure on Publix to at least sit down and talk with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Publix continues to refuse," Unterberger said. "Our delegation met with the store manager and we received the same response: 'We'll let you know.' Publix needs to know that the students, farmworkers, clergy and former customers are not going to go away. We are going to continue until they do the right thing, which is to acknowledge their role in maintaining the exploitation of farmworkers. Our message is: Sit down and talk with us, you play an even bigger role in joining the Fair Food Program and being leaders in ending that same exploitation."
Port truck drivers for Walmart also went on strike earlier this week, and two days ago, fast food workers picketed in 58 cities.
Visit CIW-online.org to find out more about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' history and efforts. Click here for the Coalition's Facebook page.
Clarification from Gerardo Reyes of the Immokalee Coalition of Farmworkers
: The CIW does not have a boycott of Publix — that is our position on the issue — and therefore the first part of the statement about Coalition members boycotting Publix is irrelevant. The message of the Labor Day weekend actions are to call on Publix to dialogue with representatives of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about their participation in the Fair Food Program.