Tipping Point, Vol. 6: Longtime Publix shopper calls for transparency, action from Florida grocer!


During 2012 Fast for Fair Food, fasting allies and farmworkers wrote dozens of letters to Publix, leaving them at the front of Publix headquarters. Since the launch of the Publix campaign in 2009, consumers have sent hundreds of thousands of messages to the Florida-based grocer, calling on them to join the Fair Food Program.


“What I want to see from you is action — step up to the plate and join the Fair Food Program…”

Today, as a part of our weeklong “Tipping Point” series, we want to share a letter to Publix from a Florida customer.

This note from Palm Beach resident Stephen Bickel builds on a longstanding tradition of letter-writing in the Publix campaign.  From celebrated authors to church-goers to Immokalee farmworkers, many thousands of people have authored sincere, thoughtful messages to Publix over the past six years, in the hopes of receiving the same courtesy in return.  Alas, most of them are still waiting for a response.

Today’s letter, which Mr. Bickel sent to Publix on the heels of the CIW’s new Fair Food agreement with Ahold USA, speaks perfectly to the demands of 21st century consumers on the companies where they buy their food: transparency, real social accountability (not clever public relations), and an unwavering commitment to human rights and dignity for all workers, both those in the store and those in the fields where their fruits and vegetables are harvested.

Here is Mr. Bickel’s letter, in full: 

Publix Super Markets, Inc.
Attn: Media and Community Relations
P.O. Box 2226-F
Jacksonville, FL 32231-0084

Dear Publix,

To start with, there are lots of things I like about your stores—good products, fair prices, friendly and helpful employees, and what appears at first glance at least to be an interest in the welfare of the communities in which you operate.

However, there is at least one major blemish on your record as a responsible corporate citizen—your refusal to join the Fair Food program, even after so many other corporations including Walmart and Ahold have joined.

I’ve read your reasons for this—not wanting to get involved in labor disputes prominent among them—but to me this is all just a way of using technicalities to cleverly deny your responsibility here. For we all know that in the current system of food supply chains it is the large company end-users, particularly supermarket chains, that call the shots and have the ability to change things. We both know you have the ability to make a profound difference here, to change lives for the better for people such as the tomato workers who labor so hard to bring food to your stores and our tables.

So I will continue to watch for you to finally acknowledge your responsibility here and to support dignity, justice, and fair compensation for the tomato workers by joining the Fair Food program.

Please don’t send me back a public relations piece crafted by one of your wordsmiths that attempts to justify your actions based on the technicalities you feel allow you to avoid responsibility here. We both know how shallow those arguments are. What I want to see from you is action—step up to the plate and join the Fair Food Program—and apologize for being so uncaring and dense by not coming around sooner. Whatever corporate objectives you thought you were achieving by your actions, your humanity and reputation have suffered in the process. Frankly, you have embarrassed yourselves.

So it’s time to make amends, okay?


Stephen R. Bickel, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Flagler County Department of Health
President of the Board of Directors, Flagler County Free Clinic
President of the Board of Directors, Flagler Cares

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of the “Tipping Point” series!