VIDEO: A look back at the March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food

Plus: An (unintentional) glimpse into the real (and misguided) reason why Publix won’t pay the penny? Read on…

We begin today’s update with a special treat for our readers who participated in the march, as well as for all those who just felt like they did because they followed the excellent daily video updates from afar. Our march media team has compiled a final highlight video with some of the most moving moments from the inspirational — and for a remarkable number of participants, transformative (see the young marcher’s story at the end of today’s post) — 200-mile trek. From the contemplative, and uplifting, launch at Jesus Obrero Church in Ft. Myers to the raucous final day with 1,500 farmworkers and Fair Food allies marching on Publix’s headquarters in Lakeland, the video tells the story of a march that will surely go down in the pages of farm labor history. So check it out, and don’t let the 10-minute length daunt you, it’s 10 of the best minutes you’ll spend today, we promise!

On another note, an article that came out this week in Publix’s hometown paper, the Lakeland Ledger (if you followed the march, you might remember that the Ledger is the paper that wouldn’t publish this op/ed by the nationally-respected religious leader and best-selling author Brian McLaren ahead of the marchers’ arrival in Lakeland), may cast some light on the real reason behind Publix’s refusal to join eleven other billion-dollar food retailers and pay the penny-per-pound to help farmworkers earn a fair wage. The article, which focuses on Publix’s price competition with Walmart, quotes Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten on the company’s efforts to manage prices in its supply chain (the photo below, which accompanies the article, was provided by Publix to the Lakeland Ledger):


“We position ourselves as customer advocates by challenging cost increases from suppliers and making sure such increases are justified,” Patten said. “We have been successful in delaying cost increases, reducing the amounts of some increases and working with our suppliers to create more weekly specials.”  read more >>

That sounds reasonable, in the abstract. But what happens when customers aren’t asking Publix to “challenge” or “delay” a cost increase? What about when customers are instead asking Florida’s largest grocer to support a small increase so that farmworkers might see some long-delayed, and much-deserved, justice? And, Ms. Patten, before you say, “But the people who march with the CIW are just a small segment of our market and don’t represent broader consumer sentiment,” here’s a little visual evidence to the contrary, from a Tampa television station that polled its viewers during last year’s Fast for Fair Food:


So here are the facts:

Support for the Fair Food Program’s penny-per-pound price premium is broad, and growing deeper every day;

  • The need for this particular cost increase is not only justified, it is widely documented, and urgent;
  • The cost increase in this instance is certainly small enough to be absorbed comfortably by a company that clears over $1 billion in profits every year, but if it were in fact passed on to the consumer, the penny-per- pound would only raise the typical tomato price at the produce aisle by approximately one half of one percent (0.5%).

This is one cost increase Publix needs to re-think, even by its own standards. To be a real customer advocate, in the case of the Fair Food Program, means getting with the program and paying the penny-per-pound.

Finally, we began this post with a mention of the transformative power of the March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food, for many of its participants, and we wanted to close today by sharing a quick, heartwarming message that reached the CIW this week from two of those participants, a first-grader by the name of Wylie and his mom Ericka. Ericka wrote to let us know that Wylie’s participation in the march “changed the way my son sees the world.” She added that Wylie gave a presentation to his first grade class in Illinois about his participation in the march (shown below with the triptych he prepared for his presentation), and that together he and his mom are preparing to deliver letters to the managers of nearby Wendy’s stores:


The Fair Food movement is not going away. With Wylie, and uncounted others across the country who believe deeply in the need to ensure justice, equality, and fair pay for those who harvest their food, it only grows stronger every day.

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone.