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“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” — John 13:34

CIW responds to Publix’s publicly stated concerns

The CIW has responded many times to Publix’s stated concerns in media interviews and on its website. On the eve of the Fast for Fair Food, Gerardo Reyes Chavez of the CIW responds again in hopes that Publix executives will site at table face to face with the CIW and work out any genuine concerns – just as 10 other companies have done successfully and fruitfully with the CIW.

Gerardo Reyes Chavez (far right) next to Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange in November 2010.

Publix says that the Fair Food Program we are trying to talk with them about is a "labor dispute" and they "don't get involved in labor disputes."  In fact, the Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmworkers, growers, and retail food giants that buy Florida tomatoes.  It is designed to both advance the human rights of workers in the fields and the long-term interests of the Florida tomato industry.  Far from being a "labor dispute", the Fair Food Program is the most promising hope for the survival of the state's $600 million tomato industry in an increasingly competitive marketplace, a way to differentiate its product in produce aisles and restaurants on the basis of a credible claim to social responsibility.  That's why the author of Tomatoland, Barry Estabrook, wrote that, thanks to the Fair Food Program, the Florida tomato industry is today in the process of leaving its checkered labor history behind and is "on the road to becoming the most progressive group in the fruit and vegetable industry."  That is hardly the stuff of a labor dispute. Learn more

Publix says that the CIW is asking them to pay the employees of other employers directly. They know that is not true.  Over $4 million has been distributed to workers since January 2011 through the Fair Food Program, and not one penny of it has been paid in any kind of direct transaction between the retail purchasers and the workers.  Not only does the Fair Food program not require what Publix is claiming, it does not allow it.

The Fair Food Premium works like a Fair Trade premium does.  And Publix proudly pays and promotes that on every bag of its Greenwise Fair Trade Coffee.  The retail buyers pay a small premium -- to the grower -- on every pound of tomatoes  they buy through the Fair Food Program.  The growers then distribute that money to their workers through their regular payroll as a line item on each worker's paycheck. 

Finally, Publix says that they would pay the Fair Food Premium if the growers would only "put it in the price".  Well, they should consider their bluff called.  The growers will put the premium in the price for any retailer that wants that, and we would sign a Fair Food Agreement today with Publix saying they can pay that way if that is what they want.  

So, Publix knows that every one of its publicly stated concerns is disingenuous.  And we will never know if they have any real concerns until they agree to talk to us.  Once we are sitting at the same table, as we have already done with 10 other companies just like Publix, we are confident we can work through any concerns and find answers that would work for both of us.  Until then, Publix will needlessly continue to tarnish the image of one of Florida's most storied corporations.

See also , February 2012.  At this link you can also view a PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly special on the successful implementation of the Fair Food Program. , April 2011


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