Day Thirteen Photo Report, Video: March swells as caravans join for final weekend!Members of the Northeast Caravan greet the marchers as they arrive at the first rest stop on Day Thirteen.

As the March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food heads into the homestretch and marchers prepare for their arrival in Lakeland later today (see the press release for the final weekend here), caravans of supporters from around the country started to make their way to Florida on Friday, more than doubling the marchers' ranks!

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Meanwhile, the march has sparked a statewide converstion in the letters to the editor pages of the cities along its route. Here's a sample of some of the letters from Sarasota, Lakeland, and Ft.. Myers:


Billionaire saves a penny

On Thursday, we were driving on Tamiami Trail behind a protest by farm workers against Publix. It seems that Publix can't afford to raise the price of tomatoes a penny a pound to help the workers make a living wage for their labor in the fields.

Yet in Friday morning's newspaper I read that the Publix heiress (Carol Jenkins Barnett) is on Forbes' latest list of the world's billionaires ("estimated net worth of $1 billion.") I have only one thing to say: "Shame on you, Carol."

Doesn't she yet realize that you can't take it with you?

Kathy Cole
North Port


Publix and Tomato Pickers

We were all pleased to see in two articles in The Ledger recently that Publix is doing so well. Perhaps now they will be able to pay the penny more a pound for tomatoes asked for by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Eleven other companies have done so, including two grocery chains — Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, and many fast-food chains, including Taco Bell and Chipotle, whose tomato purchases are a larger percentage of cost than any grocery store.

Tomato pickers get 50 cents every time they turn in a 32-pound bucket. That means they have to pick 15 buckets (about 500 pounds) every hour to make minimum wage. Couldn't we, as customers, pay a penny more a pound or Publix stockholders take a little less to lighten that burden?

A delegation from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers plans to march on foot once again 250 miles to Lakeland to present their request to Publix headquarters. They will be in town on March 16 and March 17, sleeping at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lakeland and two other churches.

They plan to hold a rally at Publix headquarters at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Barbara Wallace

Ft. Myers:

I want choices

According to your article March 4, Publix claims the 1 cent per pound increase for picking tomatoes is a labor dispute.

For me, as a Publix customer, it is a consumer issue. It matters to me the conditions and circumstances under which food is produced and handled.

I buy only “fair trade” coffee and use only unbleached coffee filters.

I appreciate it when Publix offers me these products and choices. I do not understand why Publix can’t offer “Fair Food Program” tomatoes.

John Rohde
Fort Myers