Farmworkers and consumers announce protest at new South Asheville Publix on April 29

A coalition of consumers and farmworkers from around western North Carolina have announced plans to stage a protest tomorrow at the new Publix Grocery store location on Hendersonville Road in South Asheville. The protest, sponsored by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, will coincide with the store’s grand opening tomorrow, Wednesday April 29, in an ongoing effort to urge Publix Supermarkets to join the CIW’s national Fair Food Program.

The protest is the latest demonstration in an ongoing effort to urge the grocery chain to commit to the FFP, which seeks to ensure the rights and fair compensation of farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry. The FFP sets standards for work conditions and wages on participating farms by setting a Fair Food Premium on produce sold at participating outlets, with the extra revenue from from the premium going back to workers as line-item bonuses, according to The program also sets binding agreements between the CIW and major retailers — a list which currently includes Walmart, Subway, and Sodexo, among others — to purchase only from produce suppliers who meet the standards laid out by the FFP agreement.

“Participating Buyers are required to suspend purchases from growers who have failed to comply with the Code of Conduct,” the CIW says through It claims that the FFP has “provide[d] a real market incentive for Participating Growers to abide by fair labor practices.” According to the coalition, these agreements have led to reforms in Florida’s tomato-growing industry, and curbed formerly-common workplace abuses such as sexual harassment and wage theft.

The Fair Food Program has received heaps of praise from media sources across the country and international figures, including current Secretary of State John Kerry, for its achievements in addressing worker rights in an often-ignored industry. Former United States presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have also publicly recognized the program for providing a “model for social responsibility within the agricultural industry,” as Carter said in a personal letter to the CIW in 2013.

Publix Supermarkets, however, has so far refused to commit to the FFP. The grocery chain maintains that it already abides by much of the standards outlined in the agreement under its own company policies. In a statement on its website, Publix says that it “value[s] the relationships along the path from ‘farm to fork'” but maintains that it views the CIW’s efforts as “a labor dispute,” and that it will not directly provide wages to its suppliers’ employees, a pracrtice it claims the FPP agreement calls for.

“We believe it is the responsibility of all our suppliers — including Florida farmers who grow tomatoes and other produce — to manage their own workforce, including paying wages and providing work conditions that comply with federal and state laws,” the company says in its online statement.

Despite its assertions, Publix has faced growing criticism across the country from CIW and affiliated organizations. The documentary Food Chains, released last year and produced by actress Eva Longoria and author Eric Schlosser, focuses on the growing debate between Immokalee Workers in Florida’s tomato-growing industry and the grocery giant, following workers on a six-day hunger strike outside Publix Corporate headquarters.

As the Publix expands its presence across North Carolina, proponents of the FFP have called for “an expansion of the supermarket giant’s commitment to human rights of farmworkers in their supply chain,” according to a press release from protest organizers.

“Despite almost six years of calls from farmworkers and consumers, Publix has refused to join the internationally-lauded Fair Food Program, a historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and thirteen multibillion dollar tomato retailers,” organizers claim.

The demonstration will begin at 7am on Wednesday, April 29th, outside of the new Publix Supermarket at 1830 Hendersonville Road in Asheville. A larger subsequent protest is already scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, May 2nd, beginning at 2pm.

More information on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its efforts can be found at For details regarding the Fair Food Program, visit its website at For more from Publix Supermarkets response to the CIW, check out

Details on the Asheville Publix protest can be found in the press release below:


Farmworkers and Consumers to Protest Publix Grand Opening in Asheville; Urge Supermarket Giant to Join White House-recognized Social Responsibility Program 

As Publix rapidly expands throughout North Carolina, farmworkers and consumers demand an expansion of the supermarket giants commitment to human rights of farmworkers in their supply chain

Asheville, NC Wednesday, April 29 at 7 am, local consumers will join farmworkers of the internationally-recognized Coalition of Immokalee Workers in protesting outside the grand opening of Publix in Asheville. Together, the demonstrators will be calling on Publix Supermarkets to join the Fair Food Program, a social responsibility program that ensures a humane work environment and increased pay for Florida tomato workers. The FFP has won praise from the White House to President Jimmy Carter for its unique success in addressing decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation’s trillion-dollar food industry.
What: Protest at Publix for Store Grand Opening
When: Wednesday, April 29 at 7:00 am
Where: Publix Supermarket, 1830 Hendersonville Road., Asheville
Why: Farmworkers and consumers will call on Publix to join the Fair Food Program, a social responsibility program to ensure respect for basic human rights for farmworkers in its tomato supply chain.
Participants will hold a larger demonstration at the same location on Saturday, May 2 at 2 pm.
Despite almost six years of calls from farmworkers and consumers, Publix has refused to join the internationally-lauded Fair Food Program (FFP), a historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and thirteen multibillion dollar tomato retailers, among them McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Publix competitors Walmart, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. By committing to the FFP, participating corporations demand 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. The FFP 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. Since 2011, participating buyers have paid out more than $16 million through the Fair Food Program, constituting the first pay increase for workers in over 30 years
### END ###

About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.