Since 2007, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has invited the leaders of Publix to sit at the table and negotiate a Fair Food Agreement, which attempts to harness the industry purchasing power of this large-scale supermarket chain (much like their most recent success with Trader Joe's in February) to create better wages and conditions for farmworkers. Through letters, phone calls, post cards, emails, petitions, marches, rallies, and prayers, the CIW's allies have echoed the workers' call and pressed Publix to join the the Fair Food Program, which asks the company to spend one more penny per pound on tomatoes (and that this penny goes directly to the workers), and to sign a code of conduct agreement to ensure good working conditions in the fields.
Publix has refused to meet with the CIW. After years of rejection, including a disinformation campaign from Publix, workers determined that they would undertake a fast. Together with their allies, they wanted to demonstrate the urgent moral call for Publix to put its support behind the improvements in human rights and social responsibility that have been growing through the Fair Food Program.
The six-day Fast for Fair Food ended on Saturday outside Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida, with an outpouring of support for the workers and their allies who braved hunger, a scorching sun, rain, and the mute disdain of Florida's largest corporation so that their brothers and sisters in the fields could work and live with a modicum of dignity. From beginning to end, it was a beautiful day.
The fasters can now rest. Publix's resistance won't end here, of course. But the truth is now on record. It is time now for the clergy, students, labor, and community leaders who have rallied to the workers' fast to not just ask, but demand, that Publix come to the table.
It is time now for Florida's richest corporation to stop trying to undermine a remarkable program that is helping Florida's poorest workers and instead do its part to help end the state's Harvest of Shame.