Labor Day picket kicks off fall season for Campaign for Fair Food!

CIW Women’s Group member, Marta, at Sunday’s Labor Day picket at Publix

“… It is with these very hands that I supply the tomatoes that you use, from which you profit…”

On Monday, we shared a powerful reflection on the global movement for workers’ human rights and the Fair Food Program’s worker-driven, market-powered model — but that was not the CIW’s only commemoration of Labor Day 2015! This past Sunday, Florida farmworkers and their families celebrated the holiday with a lively protest in front of a local Publix supermarket.


The high-spirited action was led by the CIW women’s group, and bolstered by the presence of a diverse group of allies from across southwest Florida, including from Florida Gulf Coast University, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Tice United Methodist Church, Showing up for Racial Justice, volunteers from the Humility of Mary and United Methodist Young Adult Missional Movement, Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church, and Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers.


After an hour of picketing in the blazing Florida sun, punctuated by chants for “One penny more!” and “What do we want? Justice!”, a joint delegation of farmworker mothers and local allies headed over to the waiting Publix manager. Every member of the delegation — young and old, farmworker and ally — had some strong words for the Florida supermarket.

First, two members of the award-winning CIW Women’s Group, Ana and Marta, spoke:


“All we want is for our work to be recognized. Publix as company benefits from our labor and it is with these very hands that I supply the tomatoes that you use, from which you profit. Everyone’s work should be recognized.”

“Publix hasn’t listened to us as workers and as women who are trying to take care of our families. What we want is unity with the industry, farmworkers and buyers. It is not right that Publix is not participating in the Fair Food Program.”

Rev. Esther Rodriguez of Tice United Methodist Church grew up in Florida and has many fond memories associated with Publix, but has been profoundly disappointed in the company since learning about the CIW’s six-year campaign to bring them on board (much like the countless consumers of late, who have written to the CIW to express their complete loss of patience with the Florida store).

In Rev. Esther’s words, “Publix professes to be a Christian company, and their refusal to join the Program is out of line of what those values mean — what the gospel preaches is standing with the poor and the immigrant in our communities.”

Finally, Annabelle Chapman, an 8th grader from Naples and dedicated member of the congregation at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, joined the delegation on behalf of the Girl Scouts. “Everyone deserves fair wages,” she said, and charged that Publix is “not being fair” in their refusal to join the Fair Food Program.


All in all, the weekend’s protest set the stage for the coming season in the Campaign for Fair Food. The groundbreaking advances in human rights that farmworkers and consumers have achieved through the Fair Food Program are here to stay. Any retailer who turns a blind eye to that reality of the 21st century will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

And this is just a preview for the season ahead, both for Publix and the final fast food holdout, Wendy’s. As we speak, students and youth are flooding into Immokalee from all corners of the U.S. for the 2015 Encuentro. We’ll have a report from the Ecuentro coming soon, along with all the latest news from the Campaign for Fair Food!