FL farmworkers on hunger strike asking why Publix won’t sign on to Fair Food Campaign

LatinaLista — Anyone who has ever spent time outside pulling weeds knows how hard it is — on the back, hands, knees, etc. But what about picking tomatoes from sunrise to sunset? Being stooped over all day at the mercy of the elements Mother Nature throws your way coupled with your boss’ temperament makes an already unbearable situation really unbearable.

On top of that, having to hoist your 32-pound bucket full of just-picked tomatoes to a central collection point just adds to the backbreaking misery. For these workers, their only compensation is that they receive 50 cents per bucket — a rate that hasn’t changed since 1980!

Overall, most of these workers earn around $10,000 a year, get no overtime pay, receive no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid vacation and they don’t even have the right to organize themselves to demand change. Yet what others have been doing on their behalf is seeing that the major corporate food buyers do what’s only fair and join the Campaign for Fair Food.

The workers are Florida tomato pickers and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — a community-based organization primarily comprised of Mexican, Mayan and Haitian immigrant workers — are currently on a hunger strike to convince one of the largest corporate food clients, the Florida-based Publix grocery store chain, to agree to pay an extra penny per pound for each bucket of tomatoes picked. The idea is growers pass the penny on to farm workers. “A major reason for farm workers’ low wages is that companies such as Publix do high-volume, low-cost purchasing.”

Since the start of the Campaign for Fair Food, many high-profile companies have signed onto it: Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway and Trader Joe’s became the tenth corporation to join last month. Yet, Publix refuses to join.

It’s a sad commentary since Publix sits in the backyard of these pickers. Publix has issued a reason for not joining the campaign but it makes little sense, especially when so many other high-profile companies have joined it.

Publix intends to hold out against paying the very workers who keep the company in the business of selling tomatoes — and it’s not right morally or ethically.

Because it is such an injustice, 70 workers are staging a hunger strike at the company’s corporate headquarters in Lakeland, FL. On Saturday, they plan to present to the CEO of Publix their message that Publix join the campaign and help them.

Along with their message, the workers are presenting a signed petition — still accepting signatures — showing Publix executives that it’s not just them asking Publix to join — it’s everyone who believes all people deserve to be treated justly.

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