Turned away… but NOT turned back!

(Photo by Calvin Knight, Lakeland Ledger. See his excellent photo gallery from the final day of the tour here.)

Above: Leaders of the 200-mile Pilgrimage to Publix ride the streets of Lakeland on the final leg to Publix corporate headquarters Tuesday. Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw refused to meet with the workers and rejected an invitation to visit Immokalee to learn first-hand about farmworker poverty and the Fair Food Program. Workers and their allies were disappointed, but not dissuaded from their quest to win the support of Florida’s largest grocer for more humane labor standards in the fields.

Photo report from final day now online!

By now you probably know the outcome of the 11-day, 200-mile bike tour from Immokalee to Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland. If not, it’s summed up here.

But while we now know the outcome of the tour, the consequences of the tour are still very much to be determined.

Publix’s shocking display of indifference to the plight of farmworkers in its home state — and to the concerns of Publix customers who support the Campaign for Fair Food — left the workers and their allies who gathered in Lakeland for Tuesday’s final leg of the bike tour deeply frustrated. Their frustration is shared by many more consumers around Florida and across the country who have written in the past two days to express their renewed commitment to the Campaign in the face of what one emailer called “such an insulting response.”

The bike tour, and Publix’s callous response to the workers’ simple invitation to dialogue, served to reveal a side of the company that many of its customers, until now, really didn’t want to believe was true: Publix not as a kind neighbor, a company uniquely tuned to its community’s needs, but Publix as a cold, arrogant corporation, a company driven only by profit, indifferent to the suffering of its neighbors, deaf to its customers’ heartfelt concerns.

A revelation like that is hard to forget, and it fuels the kind of frustration that leads to expansion of the campaign – with new ardor among those already committed to the fight, and new allies brought into the fold by the unmistakable injustice of the moment — not retreat.

The history of this campaign is still to be written. Perhaps Publix’s imperious reaction to the bikers will convince consumers that the company will not be moved. Or, perhaps it will move ever more Publix customers to demand that their neighborhood grocer live up to the words of its founder, George Jenkins, when he said, “Never let making a profit stand in the way of doing the right thing.”

Click here to see the final photo update from the Pilgrimage to Publix. And stay tuned this season to see just which way things break in this ever evolving campaign.