Farmworker families deliver a powerful Thanksgiving message to Publix!

Religious leaders, too, send their own Thanksgiving letter to Trader Joe’s, other supermarket giants…

For those of you who live in Publix’s market, which is most of the southeastern part of the country, you will already be quite familiar with the company’s Thanksgiving message. It is an advertising campaign carefully crafted to identify Publix with the powerful emotions we all feel for our family and friends at holiday time. Here’s an excerpt from an earlier post on this website about the Publix holiday advertising campaign:

“… The commercial, like other Publix ads, shows very little food, doesn’t show the store, and makes no mention at all of price or special discounts. Rather, with great economy it weaves a powerful, short narrative that follows this simple but remarkably effective formula:

Family = Love = Publix

You can watch the commercial here. Go ahead, we’ll wait… and feel free to shed a tear or two. Anything that can touch that place deep, deep in our hearts where our love for family resides is worth letting in, if only for a moment. Just don’t forget to come back.” read more

Yesterday, a delegation of CIW Women’s Group members and their children delivered a very different sort of Thanksgiving message to Publix.

Carrying a handwritten letter — which begins “We are women, mothers, daughters, and sisters…” and ends by calling on Publix to “Hear our cry for justice!” — the delegation traveled to a Naples area Publix store to drop off a copy of their special holiday message. Here’s an extended excerpt:

“… We will no longer be victims of silence. Our ideas are rooted in the changes that are now occurring in the fields of Immokalee. It is just to support a dignified life for our children and a raise of just one more cent for farmworkers.

Over the years we have formed the base of the family. And although our voices have not been heard, we have not lost our faith that change will come. Now the new Fair Food Code of Conduct that is being implemented allows for an end to unequal treatment based on gender as well as an end to the labor abuses that have been common in the fields. Many of these abuses affect us uniquely as women, and that is why today we ask Publix for its support.

A penny more in our wages means very much to us—it means a little bit more food in our pots and more respect for our work, which allows us to live with a bit more dignity. For all of these reasons we ask that Publix executives sign a Fair Food agreement. We may be women. We may be farmworkers. We may haul a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes for 10 hours straight. But, it’s because of all this that Publix is able to sell its fresh produce, picked by people in Immokalee…

… Publix: Hear our cry for justice. We want fair wages. We want the implementation of basic rights for farmworkers and our families. As mothers we would like to be able to provide an adequate Thanksgiving-Day meal for our children, earned with our own sweat, and not to have to wait in line this Thanksgiving and depend on charity and handouts. Today we end our traditional silence and publicly express our reasons and feelings.

Thanks to each of the compañeras who unites her whisper together with the cries of the CIW, we will win the campaign with Publix. With come together in a unity of women and workers, students, and the people of faith that pray with us. We know that the Divine protects all of humanity regardless of its nationality or social class.” read the letter in its entirety here

Please take a few moments over the next couple of days to read their letter and consider how you, too, might make your voice heard in the effort to soften the hearts of the men and women who run Florida’s $25-billion grocery giant and refuse to even meet with workers from Immokalee to discuss the widely-acclaimed Fair Food Program.

Yes, $25-billion in revenues a year, and they won’t pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes to improve farmworkers’ lives. They do make a great commercial, though…

While the Women’s Group delegation was visiting the Naples Publix store, some of the country’s top religious leaders were circulating a letter to the CEO’s of Trader Joe’s, Publix, Ahold, and Kroger. Here, below, is letter to Trader Joe’s in its entirety, including the list of its signatories:

Mr. Dan Bane, CEO
Trader Joe’s
PO Box 5049
Monrovia, CA 91017

Dear Mr. Bane,

As we approach Thanksgiving and religious congregations across the nation pause to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and human community, we are reminded that, in the most basic and essential aspects of our life together, food and work, members of our society are interconnected. Our choices and actions impact one another, and we have both the power and the responsibility to create economic systems that promote and protect human well-being.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ fair food agreements with nine major food buyers and over 90 percent of Florida tomato growers, are improving poverty wages and overcoming generations of human rights abuses faced by farmworkers in the fields. But this harvest will only be bountiful if Trader Joe’s shares in cultivating it.

As people of faith we give thanks to God for the first fruits of this new harvest of human rights. And we take this opportunity to encourage Trader Joe’s to sign a fair food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Please help bring about a harvest that is both abundant and just.


The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

James Winkler
General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church

The Rev. Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

The Rev. Christopher A. Johnson
Social and Economic Justice Officer, Episcopal Church

The Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
Former President, National Council of Churches

James Ennis
Executive Director, National Catholic Rural Life Conference

Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America

Virginia Nesmith
Executive Director, National Farm Worker Ministry

Kim Bobo
Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

Winston Carroo
Director, Agricultural Missions

We hope you and yours have a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.