New South Network of War Resisters
Asheville’s consumers of conscience to hold protest at site of future Publix store to demand Florida-based grocery giant meet Florida tomato industry human rights standards before expansion into North Carolina
Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods among multi-billion dollar retailers already supporting the award-winning Fair Food Program, the social responsibility program that joins farmworkers, growers, and retailers in a partnership to improve farmworker wages and working conditions
On Friday, March 7 at 2:30 PM, scores of Asheville residents will join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — the award-winning organization of Florida farmworkers — at 1830 Hendersonville Road to demonstrate outside the construction site slated to house Publix’s first store in the Asheville area. Together they will call on the Florida-based retail giant to join the Fair Food Program (FFP), a groundbreaking collaboration that has won the praise of human rights observers from the White House to the United Nations for its unique success in addressing and eliminating decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation’s trillion-dollar food industry.
“Publix is expanding into North Carolina without having cleaned up its act back home,” said Nely Rodriguez, a farmworker and member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “The $30-billion retailer has ignored calls to help end farmworker poverty and turned its back on a program that is setting the international gold standard for the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains. As Publix looks to undertake an ‘aggressive expansion’ into North Carolina, now is the time for them to join the Fair Food Program and uphold the rights and dignity of farmworkers in their supply chain.”
The Fair Food Program is an historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and twelve leading food corporations. By committing to the FFP, participating corporations support more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers and purchase exclusively from those who meet these higher standards, among them required time clocks, health and safety protections, and a zero tolerance policy for slavery and sexual harassment. Participating corporations also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers.
In January of 2014, Walmart became the third national supermarket chain to commit to the FFP, joining eleven other multi-billion dollar food retailers who collectively comprise the most progressive social responsibility initiative in US agriculture today. Indeed, the Fair Food Program was heralded in the Washington Post as “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” and in a White House report concerning global efforts to combat human trafficking as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” to that end.
The Publix protest is part of the CIW’s 10-day, 10-city tour across the country to call on the preeminent Southeast grocer to join the Fair Food Program. Despite four years of action by consumers across the Publix market, company executives have thus far refused to join the Fair Food Program or to even meet with CIW representatives.
“As consumers of conscience here in Asheville, we care about farmworkers and about how labor is treated in harvesting our food. We are happy to extend our welcome to Publix, but if and only if it has done right by its neighbors back home, first” said Coleman Smith, a local resident. “We do not wish to patronize a business that refuses to take responsibility for human rights in its supply chain.”
About the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW): The CIW is a community-based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks modern working conditions for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international human rights standards. With its Fair Food Program, launched in 2010 in over 90 percent of Florida’s $650 million tomato industry, the CIW has won fairer wages; work with dignity; and freedom from forced labor, sexual harassment, and violence in the workplace for nearly 100,000 workers.