Another Lakeland community leader takes a stand, calls on Publix to join Fair Food Program!

The Rev. Andy Oliver, a United Methodist Elder from Lakeland, pens a powerful reflection on Publix and supply chain accountability, or “What Publix can learn from Apple”

Despite Publix’s almost iconic status in Lakeland, the central Florida community where the $28 billion grocery giant was founded back in 1930, more and more community leaders are taking a critical look at their hometown supermarket and finding it wanting when it comes to the treatment of farmworkers in its supply chain.

The latest such expression of disappointment with the Lakeland-based chain comes from the Rev. Andy Oliver, a United Methodist Elder who preached for some time at one of Lakeland’s biggest churches. Rev. Oliver compares Publix’s response to the Campaign for Fair Food to computer giant Apple’s response to allegations of worker abuse at Foxconn, the Chinese factory where its iphones, ipods, and ipads are produced. He begins by describing Apple’s decision to launch an investigation in to the complaints at Foxconn and the position taken by Apple CEO Tim Cook who, “welcomed the report and agreed to support its recommendations.” He quoted the Apple CEO — “We think empowering workers and helping them understand their rights is essential” — and gave Apple “kudos… for investigating all the way down the supply chain, even if it might cut into their profit margin. This is a game changer that I hope will not only change Foxconn, but factories in the rest of China and the world.”

Then he turns to Publix. After describing the “deplorable” labor conditions in Florida’s fields, and expressing his frustration with Publix’s decision to spread disinformation about the Campaign for Fair Food through a “whisper campaign” employing local surrogates rather than address those conditions, he concludes:

“… Publix is just as responsible for people at the beginning of the supply chain as they are for CEO Crenshaw’s salary. They are just as responsible as Nike was for those shoes being made in sweat shops. They are just as responsible as Apple is for the conditions at Foxconn.The conversation is changing. As more and more people become aware of working conditions in Immokalee and other farms they are starting to ask questions about where their food comes from. Grocery stores do everything they can to not make you think about where your food comes from, but a more socially conscious people are starting to ask those questions. Award winning documentaries, “Payback” and “Food Chain” are about to raise the conversation to a higher level and a wider audience. More people are going to start to demand that Publix act more like Apple.

The difference between Apple and Publix is that Apple is doing something about it, even from half a world away. No one expects either Apple or Publix to fix injustice overnight, but we want them to honestly try. Publix has something to learn from Apple’s example. And if you don’t think that farm worker wages and conditions is Publix’s business, then I have a great job for you picking tomatoes on a farm in Immokalee.” read more

It is a must-read article, which you can find in its entirety here. Don’t miss it.