Publix takes it on the chin… again, from international anti-slavery leader Walk Free!


Following an onslaught of 302,000+ emails to the Florida-based grocery giant, now Walk Free supporters are making it personal, calling CEO Ed Crenshaw and giving Publix a piece of their minds…

When we last checked in on Walk Free’s e-action calling on Publix to join eleven other retail food leaders in the Fair Food Program and invest in the fight against modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields, the numbers had already reached a staggering 161,000 emails.

That was on May 30th.  Well, today Walk Free — the Australia-based, international powerhouse in the growing anti-slavery movement — has announced that the number of emails sent by its members demanding that Publix join the CIW’s Fair Food Program  has reached over 300,000, and it continues to climb!

On the basis of that remarkable support, Walk Free launched a new initiative this week, asking its members to pick up the phone and call Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw and make their demand for Fair Food personal.  Here’s the text of the latest Walk Free action alert:





Dear Walk Free supporter,

Publix Super Markets just released their latest financial results – US$7 BILLION in sales for the second quarter of this year1. Good for them, right? We guess so, except we can’t help wondering: while improving sales and promoting their range of Florida tomatoes, why is Publix STILL REFUSING to join the Fair Food Program and ensure modern slavery is not in their tomato supply chain?

You and almost 300,000 other anti-slavery activists have called on Publix to come to the table and help end the exploitation of workers in the Florida fields, but they’re just not listening. Publix continues to buy tomatoes from farms that cling to the past, when workers could be held against their will, threatened with violence and forced to haul hundreds of heavy tomato buckets a day for little to no pay. 

We know what Publix is listening to – calls from customers. Publix responds when a potential shopper calls their headquarters, which is what we need every Walk Free activist in the U.S. to do RIGHT NOW!It’s easy, free and will take 2 minutes or less:
  1. CALL Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida – 800-242-1227
  2. ASK to be directed to Mr Crenshaw’s office (Publix’s CEO). If they ask why, say you have a comment about the company’s tomato purchasing policies.
  3. Once you get someone on the line, they will probably ask you to leave a message. Feel free to offer your own personal comments, or to use our statement below:I was disappointed to learn that Publix Super Markets has refused to join the Fair Food Program. By continuing to do business with tomato farms that do not enforce the Program’s principles, you could be supporting slavery. Please take the first steps to ensure your products are free of slave labour by signing the Fair Food Agreement.
  4. REPORT back and let us know how it went – click here

We think thousands of phone calls will get their attention, don’t you?  In the past 15 years, over 1,000 people have been freed from modern slavery in Florida’s fields2.  The worst offenders have been charged with beating workers who attempt to leave, holding employees in debt, and even chaining victims inside U-Haul style trucks as punishment.

Other leading food companies like Subway, Trader Joe’s and McDonald’s have already joined the Fair Food Program, demanding a policy of zero tolerance for human rights abuses, including slavery, on tomato farms.  
However, Publix Super Markets has turned a blind eye to the problem and has yet to take action. We think Publix will make the right choice and join the fight against slavery in the U.S. tomato industry, but it won’t happen without public pressure. Please take action today and help get the message through!  
Thank you, 
Debra, Nick, Jessica, Hayley, Mich, Amy, Kate and the Walk Free Team
And how have Walk Free supporters responded?  In huge numbers, with a flood of calls to Publix headquarters and hundreds of reports from excited supporters on how their calls went down.  Here are just a few of those reports:
I spoke to a woman in his office and she took my message but asked that I go to the website and under newsroom check out their statement to this issue. I read it and basically it says it not my problem, what BS.
The first lady asked if she could help me and I told her that I wanted to make it known that I am against the use of slave labor and that I am going to start a campaign to spread the news of your practices for 365 days all over the internet. Then she said let me direct youto the executive department. I repeated myself and the lady kept asking me questions which I directed back at her saying you should know the practices of your company, you work there – YOU’RE HURTING PEOPLE.
I spoke with Mr. Crenshaw’s OA and she encouraged me to go onto their website and learn more aobut the CIW issue.  She stated this has been going on for a long time and they work with their suppliers to ensure they are not participating in questionable practices.  I stated, although this may have been going on for some time it didn’t mean that it was right  – my parents were farmworkers and so was I and now I work for a large Aerospace company.   Just because they are considered cheap labor they are still HUMANS.

As we write, the calls and emails continue to pour into Publix’s headquarters in Lakeland from Walk Free supporters across Florida and across the country.  The number of consumers taking direct, personal action in support of Fair Food thanks to this campaign is staggering and, as the reports above indicate, it will only continue to grow as long as Publix continues to ignore consumers’ calls for food justice.

Our sincerest thanks go out to the incredible people at Walk Free and its network of dedicated activists for a world where modern-day slavery and exploitation are a thing of the past.  We look forward to working together in the months and years ahead — the Fair Food Program harnessing the power of the giant corporate food buyers to demand an end to slavery in the fields, Walk Free and its extensive network of citizen-activists harnessing their own power as consumers to demand nothing short of slavery-free food from those same corporate giants.  Together we can build a food industry for the 21st century, an industry we can all be proud of.