Lakeland Ledger op/ed on Fair Food Program:


Publix has chosen the path of public relations falsehoods and corporate greed for their shareholders over doing the right thing.”

Labor Day 2012 saw a tremendous outpouring of support for the Fair Food Program, in both action and words.

In our last post, we mentioned that several papers published op/eds shining a light on the Fair Food Program in recognition of Labor Day, and today we are sharing the second of three of those op/eds, this one from the Lakeland Ledger (Publix’s hometown paper) entitled, “Publix Unwilling to Do Right Thing.”

The Ledger piece, written by the Rev. Andy Oliver, a local United Methodist church elder, begins with a clear explanation of the direct link between Publix’s profits and farmworker poverty:

“Most of the nation’s tomatoes are picked by immigrant farmworkers being exploited in fields a few hours from me in a small town near Naples named Immokalee. One of their largest local purchasers is headquartered where I live in Lakeland — Publix Super Markets.

For generations, farmworkers have been deprived a fair wage. Retail food giants such as Publix have high-volume purchasing power to demand tomatoes at a cheaper cost from suppliers.

This downward pressure on the cost hurts the farmworker at the bottom the most. Accordingly, tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families have been made poor so that supermarkets and their beneficiaries can profit…”

From this analysis, Rev. Oliver goes on to examine Publix’s refusal support the Fair Food Program, with a particular focus on the misleading statements about the Program that Publix has used in its defense:

“… Major corporations such as Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have signed on to the Fair Food Program, and use their purchasing power to ensure fair pay and safe conditions for farmworkers.

Sadly, Publix constantly claims to the media and on its website it is “more than willing to pay the penny more per pound” to increase tomato pickers’ pay but “we will not pay the employees of other companies directly for their labor.” Publix has chosen the path of public relations falsehoods and corporate greed for their shareholders over doing the right thing.

New York Supreme Court Justice Laura Safer Espinoza leads the Fair Food Standards Council, the body monitoring retailers’ penny-per-pound payments. She challenges Publix, stating: “No corporate buyer pays a farmworker directly in the Fair Food Program. They pay a premium that gets passed down the supply chain to the workers, who are paid by the growers who employ them. In other words, buyers like McDonald’s are doing exactly what Publix says it’s willing to do — they are putting the Fair Food premium in the price they pay for Florida tomatoes. The fact of the matter is Publix is not willing to voluntarily pay that penny as other corporate buyers have.” read more

It’s a hard-hitting opinion that demands to be read. Check it out here and come back soon for the third and final Labor Day op/ed, and all the latest news from the front in the Campaign for Fair Food!