In the fall of 2013, as the Publix Truth Tour traveled through the historic heart of the Civil Rights movement, CIW members and their student and faith allies not only educated consumers about Publix’s refusal to support the ground-breaking changes happening today in Florida’s fields, but also learned from and built partnerships with the many southern movements that have laid the groundwork for social change.
“We are not going back. We are going forward — and sooner or later, Publix is coming with us.”
October 8, 2013
Publix Truth Tour ends its two-week journey on a high note in actions with hundreds of allies in Atlanta, Athens and Tallahassee! (Spoiler alert: Lots and lots of beautiful photos ahead…)
Two weeks. Fourteen cities. Hundreds of allies at more than a dozen protests, and thousands of new troops on the northern front in the Publix campaign. With the 2013-2014 tomato season just around the corner, the battle for Fair Food was joined again, this time with a powerful new injection of energy and activism thanks to the wildly successful Publix Truth Tour.
From its first days laying the foundations of the Fair Food Nation in cities across the state of North Carolina, to its last hitting the streets with over 200 allies in Atlanta, the Publix Truth Tour was a rousing preview of what lies ahead for the Florida supermarket chain if it intends to expand its geographic reach north while continuing to turn its back on the Fair Food Program and the human rights of the workers who harvest its tomatoes.
Everyone in Immokalee — those fresh from the road and those who watched the exciting Tour from afar — is grateful to the spirited, generous people across North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida who embraced the Tour crew and echoed their message of economic justice at every turn. Judging by the enthusiasm and warmth of the reception at stop after stop along the way, there can be little doubt that the Publix Truth Tour was just the beginning of what will be a growing partnership this coming season — a season, we all hope, that will be the final one in which Publix chooses to stand stubbornly in the path of progress, on the wrong side of history.
And so, here below is one final, inspiring update from the last week of the Publix Truth Tour. Enjoy the gorgeous photos, and be sure not to miss the short video at the end, capturing the magnitude and spirit of support for Fair Food in all fourteen cities along the Tour’s trajectory!
On Tuesday October 1st, the Publix Truth Tour entered Georgia, the fifth and final state of our two week trek. With spirits still high from the previous day’s picket in Mufreesboro and candlelight vigil in Nashville, we were welcomed to the University of Georgia in Athens (home of the Bulldogs!) by a strong crew of student organizers. From the historic chapel stage at the center of campus, CIW members gave a powerful presentation about the Fair Food Program’s ability to turn the agricultural industry, once defined by abuse and poverty wages, into an industry based on human dignity. As Lupe Gonzalo put it in closing, “We’ve fought tooth and nail to be where we’re standing today. Publix’s active refusal to join the Fair Food Program threatens to push us back into the past. But we’re not going back. We’re going forward. And sooner or later, they’re coming with us.”
An hour later, we headed over to a busy Athens intersection to join the many dozens of students gathered there, homemade signs in hand. Among the groups represented that evening were Freedom University, University of Georgia’s Real Food Challenge, the Undocumented Student Alliance, and Covenant Presbyterian Church. The University of Georgia student paper, Red & Black, was there, too, covering the CIW’s visit to campus. Don’t miss their extensive coverage of the UGA tour stop, “Immigrants, students protest Publix” (10/2/13).
To close out the beautiful evening protest, student leader Sarah Mirza (pictured below), her mother and grandmother at her side, recounted her words to the Publix manager during the delegation: “My family has shopped at Publix my whole life, but because of the corporation’s refusal to recognize farmworkers, it won’t be difficult for us to shop stopping here. What has to be difficult, I told them, is Publix going out of its way to purchase its tomatoes from the few Florida growers who haven’t joined the Fair Food Program.”
That night, we headed into Atlanta. As host to Publix’s regional corporate headquarters, Atlanta’s voice is undoubtedly one of the most important in the growing southern chorus calling for Fair Food — and over the next two days, Publix heard that voice loud and clear. We were welcomed to Atlanta with a special community dinner hosted by Project South, a longtime ally and steadfast presence in the fight for civil and economic rights in the region. Fueled by the Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger’s unbeatable Southern cooking, we spent the evening building connection through discussion, theater and strategic planning.
The highlight of our visit to Atlanta, without question, was the grand protest the following evening at the well-known Publix on Ponce (a store location well-known to the Campaign, too!). After many weeks of anticipation and preparation, 200 people came out to stand with the CIW, filling the sidewalk until it could hold no more. As the rush-hour traffic roared by, countless consumers picketed, chanted and cheered: workers, students, pastors, rabbis, seminarians, mothers, children. Even a partial list of the organizations represented could go on for miles: Congregation Bet Haverim, Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, Berea Mennonite Church, Columbia Seminary, Candler Seminary, Emory Sustainable Food Initiative, Emory School of Public Health, Radio WRFG, Radio 1310, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, Georgia WAND, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Project South, GA Student Justice Alliance, GA Undocumented Youth Alliance, People’s Agenda, Open Door Community, and more. Here below are just a few of the faces from the incredible crowd (be sure to see a complete gallery from the protest at the end of today’s update):
To close out the action, CIW’s Oscar Otzoy (below) reflected on the power of standing shoulder to shoulder with many other giants for justice. He also pointed out the Publix cameraman behind us, who had been following and filming us at every stop. Though the purpose of the tapes is indeed curious, given how past footage has been used, Oscar made it clear: “Cameras at our actions don’t intimidate us. In fact, we’re glad to know that Publix executives have been watching us today, that they witnessed the unity we demonstrated. They’ll have no illusions about whether or not the consumers in their regional headquarters here in Atlanta are with us.”
Indeed, Atlanta is with us. Countless allies expressed a desire to build an Atlanta-based CIW Fair Food group, and to make it unmistakably clear to Publix that they will have no retreat from the Campaign for Fair Food until they agree to support the historic changes taking root in the fields of Florida. Here are a few more pictures from the rally following the action:
Because there were simply too many great photos not to share them all, here’s the rest of the mobilization in Atlanta:
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And so, on Friday, after visiting 14 cities in 14 days, the intrepid van load of CIW members and allies finally began to wind its way back home — but not before one final stop in Tallahassee. A lively contingent of Florida State University students welcomed the Tour crew, joined by a few other friends from community organizations and churches around the city, culminating the Publix Truth Tour with one last lively 35-person picket.
As the dogged crew arrived back in Immokalee after a whirlwind tour on Saturday, we all agreed: Despite many long days on the road — and all too few moments of rest — we return to Immokalee with even more drive and energy than when we departed. We return buoyed by the overwhelming number of Publix consumers committed to amplifying our call for justice throughout the South, allies infused with the spirit of our struggle and equipped with their own strategies for taking the fight to Publix in their hometowns. Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama are ready. North Carolina is ready. It’s going to be an exciting season!
And so ends the beginning of the 2013-2014 season of the Publix campaign. It couldn’t have gotten off on a better foot. To close this final update, an update overflowing with beautiful pictures and faces from the road, we will leave you with the Publix Truth Tour video, two minutes of action from the Tour that will set the table for the season to come. Enjoy!
Publix Truth Tour rolls into Alabama, Tennessee, hits the streets in action!
October 3, 2013
For its second week, the Publix Truth Tour — infused with new energy after being joined by even more CIW members from Immokalee — rolled into Tennessee and Alabama. This chapter of the Tour was defined by the mobilization of hundreds of stalwart southerners who raised both signs and voices to let the Florida-based supermarket know that its expansion north must be accompanied by a basic respect for farmworkers.
Once again, we turn to the CIW and ally staff on the front lines of the tour for beautiful photos and a first-person account of this exciting installment:
There could have been no better way to enter Tennessee than by winding our way to the renowned Highlander Center. As many readers will know, Highlander has dedicated itself to providing communities with the space and tools to build powerful movements for social and economic justice for over 80 years, from the labor movement of the first half of the 20th century to the civil rights movement of the second. Indeed, some readers of a certain vintage might remember Highlander as the infamous “Communist Training School” of the old South’s fevered imagination, where Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks attended workshops on civil rights (being on the wrong side of history is never pretty…) :
On Friday afternoon, as we rocked in their iconic rocking chairs — which inspired the fleet now sitting in the CIW community center — and looked out over the Appalachian ranges, we were reminded that as we go on writing our long-awaited chapter on the transformation of the agricultural industry, we must also draw on the movements before and around us.
That night, we wound our way down from the hilltops and into the city of Knoxville for an evening of just that: Exchanging our community’s tools for organizing with other worker-led organizations. Focusing specifically on the CIW’s use of popular education as a lively mechanism for stirring community consciousness and participation, we prepared a two-hour presentation and workshop at the Birdhouse to explore the power of theater, radio, drawings, music and other mediums and activities for building awareness. We were joined by many longtime friends and allies — among them el Comite Popular, Dignidad Obrera (Workers’ Dignity) and Knoxville’s Jobs with Justice (who generously offered us housing for the night) — and spent the evening discussing the significance of Publix’s imminent move to town.
Before we headed out the next morning, we swung back by the Birdhouse to deliver our saludos to one more inspiring movement for fundamental justice and human rights in the area: Mountain Justice. As these untiring community leaders met as part of their ongoing fight to save the mountains, streams, and forests of Appalachia, we wanted to pass on a word of our solidarity. Acknowledging the video of support many of them had crafted and sent during the 2012 Fast for Fair Food, CIW member Emilio Faustino Galindo may have put it best: “Our struggle is yours and yours is ours: We are all fighting for the recognition of life.”
Leaving the hills of Tennessee behind for a visit to one of the first great industrial cities of the South, we reached Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday, where we were hosted by Greater Burmingham Ministries (GBM) for a community meeting of faith leaders, leaders in the agriculture business community, and other key community figures. Among the group GBM had brought together were the leaders from the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Magic City Agricultural Project, the United Methodist Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to name a few.
Before the CIW had even begun to unfold the storied campaign and the obstacles still ahead, Rev. Tommy Morgan of Grace Christian Church announced that he had a quick tale to tell of his own. “Recently, I was shopping at Publix in the produce section alongside an older woman, when out from her purse she pulled a pocket knife. My attention now squarely on her, I watched as she picked up a tomato, took the knife to it and sliced a piece off. Alarmed, the Publix produce manager hurried over. ‘Ma’am, can I help you?’ ‘I believe you can,’ she quipped. ‘But until then, if you won’t pay for the whole tomato, then I won’t buy the whole tomato.'” Not having known where the story was going, the two dozen gathered burst out laughing. Rev. Morgan added, “So ya’ll should know that the fight for fair food is already alive and well in Alabama.”
On Monday afternoon, the tour doubled back to Tennessee, where we met the budding Murfreesboro Fair Food for their second official protest and our inaugural action as a combined group. As the sun lowered, more than thirty of us picketed, full of energy. After a non-stop week on the road of education and presentation, we were ready for an action — an opportunity to take to the streets with our joy for the new day of respect for human rights in the fields, and dismay at Publix’s unconscionable refusal to be part of that new day:
From Murfreesboro, the crew caravanned up to Nashville for the tour’s most powerful evening yet. After Vine Street Christian Church hosted the CIW and Dignidad Obrera for dinner, and night had begun to fall, supporter after supporter arrived for an evening vigil. After igniting each of our candles, we filed out of the church two by two until the now nearly 100 of us stretched out along the main boulevard, singing as we strode, “Caminamos en el luz de dios,” or “We are walking in the light of God.”
A delegation was formed to speak to the store manager (below). As the group headed off, the rest of us turned to face Publix and formed a wall, three people thick, resuming our song.
We sang round after round after round until finally the group returned and the delegation relayed its impassioned appeal to Publix management: that Publix’s participation in the Fair Food Program would carry a profound impact for farmworker families; that it has been four years without Publix even agreeing to a single face-to-face dialogue; and that we will be here, present, for as long as it takes.
For an album of truly beautiful pictures from the vigil, click on the images below. And check back soon for the next installment from the road on the Publix Truth Tour!
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Publix Truth Tour crew brings Fair Food gospel to Publix’s newest market, North Carolina!
October 1, 2013
Educational swing through the Tar Heel state gets warm reception from student, faith, community and corporate allies…
Over the course of four days in North Carolina — days that took them on a whirlwind tour through Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, and Asheville — the Publix Truth Tour crew met face to face with hundreds of new allies, consumers of every stripe who are gearing up to spearhead the Fair Food movement in Publix’s newest market. In rooms packed with community leaders and consumers of conscience, the crew told the story of Publix’s indefensible obstinance, of the company’s four-year rejection of a proven solution to longstanding farmworker abuse. Everywhere they went, the Tour crew’s message was heard loud and clear by North Carolinians ready to swell the ranks of the Fair Food movement, from the state chapter of the NAACP to students at UNC. If the few days in North Carolina were any indication, Publix will be facing a strong headwind as it pursues its plans for expansion around the state.
For an even closer look at the North Carolina leg of the Publix Truth Tour, we turn once again to the crew itself, which provided the following first person report from the field:
Durham’s Eno River UU Fellowship hosted our very first North Carolina stop, where a large crowd gathered for an evening of presentation and discussion on the groundbreaking gains of the Fair Food Program. Flanked by a wide range of notable organizations throughout the “triangle” — including the NC Council of Churches, Witness for Peace, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Student Action with Farmworkers (pictured below with Truth Tour crew members), Triangle Friends of Farmworkers, and more — we joined a panel discussion in response to the film “Harvest of Dignity,” an exposé on decades of dismal pay and conditions in the fields. As the film finished and CIW representatives began to outline the new day of respect for human rights emerging in Florida’s agriculture industry, as well as Publix’s refusal to do its part to support the reforms and the company’s plans to expand to their communities, the various organizations present resolved to see to it that Publix receives no welcome in their state. The lively discussion — including a stream of ideas from the writers, chefs, religious leaders and organizers present — was still going strong when the building finally closed down at the end of the night.At UNC Chapel Hill Tuesday night, we were hosted by FLO (Fair, Local and Organic) Foods who brought together a wide swath of the campus community. Students took part in a theater piece (photo at top right of today’s post) dramatizing the weight of Publix’s immense market power as it presses down on workers at the bottom of the tomato supply chain. On a side note, it also didn’t go unnoticed that Chapel Hill’s campus is home to a certain red-headed penny pincher from Ohio. Given the energy and drive we encountered, we’ll certainly have more to say on this later.Next, we headed off to Charlotte, where we were welcomed by none other than North Carolina NAACP President, Kojo Nantambu (below, center). Understanding the power of the Fair Food Program to address the generations-old legacy of exploitation in the fields, Mr. Nantambu called for a press conference immediately following our meeting. As the cameras rolled, he publicly announced that North Carolina’s ever-powerful NAACP would be standing with the CIW. If Publix didn’t join the Fair Food Program, he said, the NAACP would be taking up the issue within city government and state legislatures.But while Charlotte is new to the Campaign for Fair Food where Publix is concerned, it’s also home to Compass Group, the nation’s largest food service provider and a key partner in the Fair Food Program since 2009. It was a delight, then, to be invited to lunch (right) at headquarters with Compass Group’s Veronica Ospina, Senior Manager of Corporate Communications. As we ate, we were visited by members of Compass’s produce buying arm, who stopped by to communicate their respect for the impressive and essential work undertaken in the fields.Their hospitality reminded us of the words of Cheryl Queen, VP of Compass Group Communications (and fellow marcher along the 200-mile trek to Publix, unfortunately out of town while we were in Charlotte). In an article she penned for the PC(USA)‘s Horizons Magazine after joining the FFP, Cheryl writes: “My experience in meetings with people who could be considered ‘opponents’ has taught me to find the commonality, the shared human connection and experiences that slowly build to trust and partnership.” We couldn’t agree more.Then it was west to Asheville, NC, and the beautiful mountain country of western North Carolina. Just outside of Asheville, Warren Wilson College welcomed us with open arms on Thursday morning. After a tour of the breathtaking campus nestled in the Swannanoa Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we were ushered into a number of classroom presentations. Students listened with rapt attention as farmworkers explained the advances underway in Florida’s fields and Publix’s planned expansion into the area. The volume of questions and comments meant we had to cut the discussion short in most classes, but luckily the Eco Justice Crew had planned a campus-wide forum on Thursday evening (below). Standing before a full house, CIW members underlined students’ indispensable energy and creativity throughout the history of the Campaign for Fair Food.Finally, we couldn’t leave North Carolina before meeting with community organizations fighting for their own due respect in fields, factories and homes across the state. The Western North Carolina Workers Center (pictured below) in Morganton and Nuestro Centro in Asheville offered seats at tables full of tamales around which we shared challenges, successes and strategies for protecting human rights from the shores of Florida to the mountains of the Tar Heel state.
The North Carolina leg of the Publix Truth Tour is a wrap. Check back soon for more as the Tour crew heads to Tennessee!
Little Rock AME Zion Church
401 N. McDowell St., Charlotte
12:30 pm: Lunch hosted by Fair Food Program signatory, Compass Group
5:30 pm: Open CIW Presentation with Charlotte Solidarity Group
Area 15, corner of 15th St. & N. Davidson
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2304 12th Ave. N., Birmingham
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4:30 pm: Publix Picket in Murfreesboro
Publix at 1731 S. Rutherford Blvd, Murfreesboro
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6:30 pm: Dinner Exchange between CIW and Workers’ Dignity
Vine Street Christian Church, 4101 Harding Pike, Nashville
7:30 pm: Vigil at Belle Meade Publix in Nashville
Meet at Vine Street Christian Church for 8pm vigil at Publix, 4324 Harding Pike
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9 Gammon St. SE, Atlanta
Must RSVP to email@example.com
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joe (at) sfalliance.org
elena (at) interfaithact.org
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Why a Truth Tour?
Rolling out from Immokalee on September 21st, the CIW will be launching a marathon tour of the southern branch of the Fair Food Nation to spread the truth about Publix and its unconscionable refusal to support the Fair Food Program, the most effective program for human rights in the US agricultural industry today. Allies in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama have already begun to plan dozens of presentations, pickets and house meetings to escalate the Campaign for Fair Food in the South, right alongside the expansion of Publix grocery stores. Together with workers from Immokalee, this growing army of consumers will demand that Publix — which has spent four years turning its back on the men and women who harvest their food — heed their call for economic justice and do its part to fight farmworker abuse and exploitation, from sexual harassment to modern-day slavery.