“We must be aware of what is happening in our back yard and stand up for what is right.”

Tennessee United Methodist Conference passes resolution calling on Publix to join Fair Food Program!

Last week, voting with the power of tens of thousands of fellow Tennesseans behind them, the United Methodist Conference of Tennessee overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of Fair Food at their annual conference in Nashville. Sponsored by the Chair of the Board of Church and Society, Rev. Matthew Kelley, the resolution was an unflinching moral call on Publix to join the Fair Food Program.

Here are a few of the highlights:

A Resolution Urging Publix to Commit to the Fair Food Program

Whereas, after a decade of education, outreach, and action in its Campaign for Fair Food, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — an internationally recognized farmworker organization — has developed the Fair Food Program, an historic partnership between farmworkers, tomato growers, and ten leading food corporations; […]

Whereas, Publix, Florida’s largest privately-owned company, has for three years refused to even meet with farmworkers. A company spokesperson even declared “If there are some atrocities going on, it’s not our business;” and

Whereas, since 2002, Publix has expanded into Middle Tennessee with more than 30 locations, making it one of Publix’s three most important target growth markets, and

Whereas, since 2009, residents from across Middle Tennessee have joined with the CIW in insisting that Publix support human rights and dignity for the workers who pick the produce we eat.

Therefore be it resolved, that the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church calls on Publix to have a change of heart, and sign the Fair Food Agreement. read more

In a press release announcing the resolution, Rev. Kelley hit the nail on the head when he added: “paying a penny more for tomatoes seems like a small price to pay for the living wages and just treatment of those who work so hard.

We could not agree more! Since November of 2011, when the Program was first implemented, over $10 million in penny-per-pound funds have been paid into the Fair Food Program by participating buyers. By joining the Fair Food Program, Publix — a major Southern supermarket chain and a principal buyer of Florida tomatoes — could put its economic weight behind the fight to end generations of farmworker poverty, while at the same time support the most important human rights gains in Florida’s fields in decades.

Instead, Publix continues to turn its back on the opportunity to make a real difference in workers’ lives, and the company’s unconscionable intransigence is mobilizing consumers, like the United Methodist Conference of Tennessee, far and wide, from the upper edges of Publix’s expanding territory to the southern tip of Florida. Just this past Saturday at the closing session of the Florida United Methodist Annual Conference in Lakeland — which gathered in the George Jenkins arena, named for the supermarket’s founder — news of Tennessee’s resolution was shared with hundreds of delegates representing churches all across the state.

On a final note, Rev. Kelley made it clear to Publix that Tennessee — nor any other community with active, conscientious consumers — would not stand for Publix’s failure to do the right thing:

“We decided to propose this resolution and bring this issue to the attention of the Tennessee Annual Conference because Publix has an ever-expanding footprint in our area. We must be aware of what is happening in our backyard and stand up for what is right.”