Mother’s Day in Immokalee, with a Fair Food twist!

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“What are you waiting for, Publix?”  Mother’s Day brings farmworker families together to celebrate gains, demand long-overdue justice from Publix…

Full of momentum and energy from the blockbuster month of April, the Fair Food movement is hitting the ground running this May and, as is so often the case, Immokalee’s mothers are leading the charge.  

This past Sunday, the ever-growing CIW women’s group, kids and all, gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day in Immokalee.  In one room, the children composed (rather glitter-laden) cards to their mothers — thanking them for all the love, hard work, and sacrifice they put into raising their families every day.  Meanwhile, in the next room, farmworker women from Immokalee wrote a letter of their own, this one to Publix, expressing their bitter disappointment in the Florida grocery giant for its refusal to support the Fair Food Program and the historic gains for farmworkers — and farmworker women in particular — in the state’s tomato fields.  

Here is their letter in full:

May 11, 2014
Mother’s Day

To Publix:

mothers_day_2014_1We are farmworker women.  This is the fourth celebration of Mother’s Day in which we are writing to Publix to ask that you join the Fair Food Program.

As mothers, we work in the fields to support our families, especially to help our children through school.

As mothers, we do not make enough to fully support our family.  And the little that we do make is not easy to earn:   We work under the sun and rain of Florida.  We do everything so that you can have tomatoes:  we plant, we tie up the plants, we harvest, and then we do it all again the next season.  In spite of all that, it seems that you do not understand and do not want to hear the voice of farmworkers.

Publix profits from the sweat of those of us who work in the fields.  We deserve respect and we deserve a fair wage.

Now is the time to join the Fair Food Program to protect the rights of workers and ensure a fair wage, with the penny per pound that 12 other corporations are already paying.  What are you waiting for, Publix?

Sincerely,

The Women’s Group of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

As the letter points out, this is the fourth Mother’s Day that the women’s group has written to Publix.  And although Publix’s decision to ignore the women’s letters has remained unchanged, the world around Publix, has undergone a near total transformation.  That transformation is reflected in the Women’s Group’s letters.  

Four years ago, the tomato industry was still riddled with the systemic abuses that had plagued agriculture for decades, including sub-poverty wages and rampant sexual harassment and verbal abuse.  Four years ago, the women’s group asked Publix to join other corporations in partnering in supporting their vision for a more modern, more humane industry in which these abuses were eliminated.  

Today, the workers’ vision for a new industry has become a reality, and 2014’s letter asks Publix to join the Fair Food Program — “the best workplace monitoring system in the U.S.,” with a “robust enforcement mechanism,” that is “unique in the country” in its ability to combat sexual violence against farmworker women.  

Four years ago, the fact that Publix ignored the dream of a better agricultural industry envisioned by the women (and men) who harvest their tomatoes was wrong. Today, the fact that Publix continues to turn its back on those same farmworkers, who stand at their door with not just a vision but a proven solution, is simply unconscionable.  

This coming Sunday, May 18th, the women’s group will be heading down to Miami to join the Food Chains Workers Alliance and many other allies from South Florida to deliver the letter in person.  So if you’re in Florida and can make it to Miami, come out and join us!  Or, feel free to take a copy of the letter to your local Publix next time you go shopping (and let us know how it went!)