Labor Day 2009 – Labor Day 2013: Four years of unprecedented progress in Florida’s fields, four years of unconscionable resistance from Florida’s “hometown grocer” Publix…

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Farmworkers, consumers ready for protests across the state of Florida this Labor Day weekend calling on Publix to end the excuses and join the Fair Food Program!

Last Labor Day, Holly Burkhalter of the International Justice Mission concluded her Washington Post op/ed on the CIW’s Fair Food Program with the following paragraph:

This Labor Day, like every other day, the world’s most exhausting, dangerous, poorly paid and degrading jobs are being performed by the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable people. But that is not true anymore in Immokalee. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has changed Florida and U.S. agriculture for the better. May their brilliant model flourish and inspire producers, buyers, consumers and workers in every industry where labor slavery persists. (read more) 

In the same article, the Fair Food Program was described as “one of the great human rights success stories of our day.”  Since then, observers from diverse corners of the human rights universe — including the White House to the United Nations and PBS — have echoed that assessment.   

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A newly constructed mobile shade structure rests on a Fair Food Program farm.

The Fair Food Program, now entering its third season of operation in over 90% of the Florida tomato industry, has garnered such remarkable, widespread praise thanks to the concrete, measurable changes it has brought about in farmworkers’ lives.  From over $10 million in Fair Food premiums that have passed through the Program since its inception in January 2011, to creative new structures for shade in the fields (right), the changes are unprecedented, and the Program is still in its infancy.  The Program’s proven prevention of longstanding violence, from sexual harassment to slavery, is unparalleled.  And the Fair Food Standards Council, the third party monitoring organization that oversees compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, recently completed its first audit on farms outside of Florida, presaging the Program’s planned expansion in the years to come.  

And so this Labor Day is truly a day to celebrate in the same fields that just a few short years ago were dubbed “ground zero for modern-day slavery“.  Farmworkers are finally finding their way out of a long, dark tunnel of abusive conditions and daily humiliations.  Growers are finally seeing a finish to the endless torrent of headlines decrying Florida’s “Harvest of Shame”.  And retailers no longer have to worry about yet another slavery case exploding in their supply chains.  Participants across the food industry connected to Florida’s tomato fields are enjoying the benefits of a New Day for farm labor rights brought about by the Fair Food Program.  

Except Publix

Labor Day 2013 is indeed a day to celebrate throughout the Florida tomato industry — everywhere, that is, except in the corporate headaquarters of Florida’s “hometown grocer,” Publix.  Within the echo chamber inhabited by Publix’s executive leadership and public relations personnel, the Fair Food Program is a socialist curse on the food industry (we’re not making that up, by the way), the growers who gave in to the CIW and agreed to implement the historic reforms are traitors (that either), and the consumers who support the Campaign for Fair Food are sadly misguided dupes (that’s actually just a safe conclusion).  They don’t say these things to the press, of course.  For the press, they’ve crafted carefully constructed dodges and misleading claims designed to confuse the public and deflect responsibility for the company’s indefensible refusal to do its part and invest in the fight against farmworker abuse and exploitation as eleven other food industry giants have already done.  

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But make no mistake, instead of celebrating a new respect for human rights and the dignity of farm labor in their suppliers’ operations, the only celebration likely going on in Pubilx’s headquarters this Labor Day will be to mark the fourth year of successfully resisting change and “fighting off” the Campaign for Fair Food.  Late summer, 2009, was the first time CIW and allies took public action to call on Publix to sign a Fair Food Agreement, and the company has fought the tide of progress ever since.  This Labor Day we mark four years since the launch of the Publix campaign. 

And so, once again, fed up with Publix’s intransigence, the Fair Food Nation is rising up, celebrating Labor Day 2013 with a full slate of protests aimed at raising the pressure on Publix — the recent recipient of over 300,000 emails from disgruntled consumers — to do the right thing.

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The push for human rights in Publix’s supply chain continues this Labor Day weekend!

Here’s the calendar of events:

VENICE:  Thur., Aug 29th at 7:30 AM at a newly opening Publix at Plaza Venezia
(2438 Laurel Rd. E).
 
FORT MYERS:  Sat., Aug 31st at 10 AM at the University Commons Publix, (13401 Summerlin Rd., across from Edison College).
 
SARASOTA:  Sat., Aug 31st at 2 PM at the Bay Street Publix (2031 Bay St., south of the 41 & 301 intersection).
 
TAMPA:  Sat., Aug 31st at 7 PM – Publix at Gandy Shopping Center (3615 Gandy Blvd). 
 
ORLANDO:  Sun., Sept. 1st at 2 PM at the Lake Eola Publix (400 E. Central Blvd).
 
TREASURE COAST: Monday, Sept. 2nd at 11 AM at Publix at Downtown Stuart Shopping Center – 746 SW Federal Hwy, Stuart 
 
This Labor Day weekend, farmworkers will be traveling across the state, joining their consumer allies in six demonstrations across Florida. Join one in your area, and join the call for Publix to open a dialogue with the CIW, and to learn about the Fair Food Program and the unprecedented changes it is creating in the fields in its own back yard.  
 
Contact us at workers@ciw-online.org for more information on how you can be part of this action this Labor Day!