“Don’t take Publix customers as fools…”

United Methodist Women call directly on Publix’s Carol Jenkins Barnett to “do the right thing” by farmworkers!

Building on a long-standing foundation of support for the Campaign for Fair Food, fifty United Methodist Women from Alabama and West Florida sent letters directly to Publix Board of Directors member, Carol Jenkins Barnett, as they gathered this past weekend to learn about — and take action to end — human trafficking in the region.

The message is the very essence of straight talk in the face of Publix’s disingenuous and worn public relations double speak. Here is an extended excerpt:

June 1, 2013

To Ms. Carol Jenkins Barnett of the Publix Board of Directors:

I, a United Methodist Woman, am deeply concerned about human trafficking in the Southeast US. As such, I want you to come to the table with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and join the proven solution: the Fair Food Program. […]

Carol, please help Publix to do the “right thing,” and become part of the solution to ending the human rights injustices in agriculture.

We’ve witnessed for three and a half years how Publix has justified its refusal to take part in the Fair Food Program by offering excuses it knows to be groundless. We call on you to direct Publix’s PR department to stop referring to the Fair Food Program as a “labor dispute.” That’s ridiculous in its insincerity. A groundbreaking collaboration among growers, retailers and farmworkers – which, for the first time ever, is cleaning up sexual harassment, wage theft, violence, lack of access to shade and water, and impoverishing wages – is as far from a labor dispute as you can get. Please don’t take Publix’s customers as fools.

Likewise, we are not fooled by Publix’s PR department continuing to say that they “will not pay employees of other companies directly for their labor” as quoted from the company website – it is disappointingly disingenuous to imply that the Fair Food Program works that way when it does not. Participating retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Subway and McDonald’s pay a premium in the price of their tomatoes to their suppliers. That is then passed along by the suppliers through their regular payroll systems. No buyer pays farmworkers directly for their labor, so we ask that you instruct company spokespersons to stop repeating such foolishness.

United Methodist Women, nearly one million in membership, represent a formidable purchasing demographic. We stand for justice for the poor, for the rights of immigrants, and for all human rights. read more

United Methodist Women speak at the March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food

The UMW gathering where the letters were signed took place this past Saturday. That gathering was followed on Sunday by the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, attended by representatives of countless Methodist churches from the area. The UMW participants took stacks of the letters with them to distribute at the conference and pledged to mobilize their churches in support of Fair Food.As they mention in the letter to Ms. Jenkins Barnett, United Methodist Women have been deeply involved in the Publix campaign since its inception three and a half years ago. This past March, UMW members provided critical support to the historic 200-mile March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food, preparing food, marching shoulder to shoulder with farmworkers, and sharing a moving statement of solidarity on International Women’s Day. Just one week later, 140 United Methodist Women from 26 churches throughout the region visited Immokalee on one of the largest educational visits the CIW has ever hosted!

One of the largest contingents at the annual conference hailed from Mobile, Alabama, one of the southeastern markets targeted by Publix for expansion. A recent Publix opening in Mobile drew scores of consumers, including many members of the churches that sent members to the UMW gathering. But the second Publix opening in Mobile, set to take place in just a few weeks, just might be a different story, if these ladies have anything to do with it.

The message is clear: Alongside students, other faith communities, sustainable food activists, and thousands of other community members, United Methodist Women are determined to hold Publix accountable for its failure to support farmworkers’ fundamental human rights. Any expansion of Publix stores will be met by an educated, active consumer base that will continue to call on Publix to truly “become part of the solution to ending the human rights injustices in agriculture.”