Protesters lined up Tuesday evening at Publix on Ocala Drive to demonstrate how farmers get treated unfairly. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers created the campaign ‘Fair Food Program.’
Protesters wanted Publix to sign on to their cause, which tries to get major corporations to pay a one cent premium increase towards farm worker’s wages.
The Fair Food Program also demands more humane labor standards from Florida’s tomato suppliers, and emphasizes holding corporations accountable to buy only from growers who meet those high standards.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is also an ally with the Student Farm Worker Alliance. The two organizations have teamed up to protest in front of Publix and at Florida State University’s Strozier Library.
Staff member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Marley Moynahan thinks students play a critical role in deciding our future.
“Students are not just responsible for the future but they are affected by it. We have both an interest in and a responsibility to shape that future,” Moynahan said.
Farmers were also present to support both the students and coalition. Many major corporations such as, McDonalds, Subway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes are paying the one-cent premium towards an increase in farmer’s wages. However, Publix chooses not to join them.
Farmer Oscar Otzoy explains his frustration with the major supermarket. “What we are asking from Publix is to also support these changes that we are seeing in the agricultural industry.” Otzoy said. “But they haven’t been willing. They’ve decided to not participate in this program, so they are not supporting the change in this field.”
A Publix store manager declined to comment, however, on their website a statement was released that said:
“We don’t believe “just paying the penny” is the right thing to do – for Publix or our suppliers. Simply stated, Publix is more than willing to pay a penny more per pound -or whatever the market price for tomatoes will be – in order to provide product to our customers. However, we will not pay employees of other companies directly for their labor. That is the responsibility of their employer, and we believe all parties would be better served if appropriate wages were paid by growers to their workers, and we were charged accordingly.”
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is currently on an education tour across North Florida with their next visit expected to be in Gainesville.