The mission for farmworkers based in Immokalee, Florida to get paid just a little fairer wage has been a drama that began nearly a decade ago.
It's been a stirring campaign that has been artful in gathering allies along the way to put pressure on major corporations like Yum Brands! (the parent company of Taco Bell), McDonalds and Burger King to have the farm workers get paid a penny more per pound for harvesting tomatoes, as well as a stronger code of conduct based on the principal of worker participation, as well as a monitoring system to check conditions in the field.
But even after those big victories, the farmworkers were still getting bottle necked due to the intransigence of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE). But a breakthrough finally occurred with that powerful group last November, when the CIW and FTGE signed an agreement to extend such Fair Food principles to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields. The implementation of the agreement is being phased in gradually over the next two seasons.
But one company still remains committed to not agreeing with the CIW's demands. That would we be the powerful supermarket chain Publix, who has resisted all attempts to make a deal with the farmworkers alliance.
In December, a Publix spokesman said of the demands of the group: nothing doing, according to The Bulletin, in Baldwin County, Alabama.
We dont have any plans to sit down with the CIW, Publixs Media and Community Relations Manager Dwaine Stevens said, also citing that the company sells around 36,000 products in the stores and it cannot get involved with each products labor issues. If there are some atrocities going on, its not our business. Maybe its something the government should get involved with.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers owe much of their success to their perseverance; If they took "no" for an answer from the various CEO's they've publicly protested over the decade, it's extremely doubtful they would have finally achieved so much of what they've strived for in getting the breakthrough with the FTGE last year.
So there will be protests both Friday and early Saturday, leading to what the organizers hope will be a major protest this Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Publix store on 1313 S. Dale Mabry Highway.
There will be there separate marches from different Publix stores in Tampa Saturday morning: at 10:00 a.m. on West Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa (2724 W. Hillsborough). Another group will meet at the Publix at Bayshore Blvd. (243 Bayshore Blvd). at the same time, and will meet allies at the Publix Greenwise at 2403 W. Azeele St. at noon, while a third group will meet at the Publix at 3638 Britton Plaza also at noon. They plan to all converge at the Dale Mabry Publix at 2:00 p.m.
But the activism actually begins on Friday, March 4, where CIW members and their supporters will be out front of four Publix stores all day long distributing their literature. Those stores are listed below:
Temple Terrace Publix
5450 East Busch Blvd.
Temple Terrace, FL 33617
Town & Country Publix
8701 W Hillsborough Ave Tampa
13178 North Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33618
St. Petersburg (Bay Pointe Plaza) Publix
5295 34th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Leonel Perez of the CIW says of Publix failure so far to deal with his group,
For years we have picked tomatoes in Floridas fields under unimaginably harsh conditions. Today, however, we are finally beginning to see the first glimmers of more humane treatment at work, thanks to the Campaign for Fair Food. But Publix is standing in the way of progress, and their refusal to help improve farm labor wages and working conditions threatens to undermine the unprecedented and still fragile human rights advances that are just now starting to take root in the fields.