Immokalee Workers Plan Major Push on Publix This Weekend
|Pressure mounts on Publix.|
Ramirez is a staff member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, founded in 1993 to organize on behalf of low-wage workers of mostly Latino, Indian, and Haitian descent. The coalition has spent much of the past decade successfully persuading major produce purchasers like Taco Bell, McDonald's, Burger King, and Whole Foods to pay an extra penny a pound for the millions of tomatoes they buy -- a tiny price hike that can make huge differences to the wages of farm workers.
|A 32-pound bucket earns workers 45 cents.|
Ramirez doesn't speak English, but the Juice spoke to him by phone yesterday with the help of a translator. Beginning tomorrow, Ramirez says, hundreds of Florida farm workers and their supporters will begin a 15-mile march from Tampa to Plant City, and from there, the next day, on to Publix's headquarters in Lakeland. On Saturday, with local religious groups, CIW will hold a candlelight vigil, hoping to persuade Publix to come to the negotiating table.
"Conditions in the fields have been the same for years," Ramirez says. Tomato pickers earn 45 cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. He's worked for many companies in Florida over the years, including Six L's, a large tomato producer that has been under CIW's microscope for inhumane treatment of workers, including slavery.
|Wages for pickers have remained stagnant.|
CIW staffer Julia Perkins told the Juice that the extra penny could either be absorbed by the company or passed on to consumers, whom she believes would be willing to pay a penny more to help ensure a living wage for tomato pickers. She notes that winter freezes increased tomato prices this season by up to 50 cents a pound and that shoppers didn't stop buying them. A one-penny hike, she says, would cost Publix less than they pay for a single ad campaign.
|CIW: Making shopping just a little more pleasurable.|
In other words, we're all in this together.