Gainesville faith leaders to Publix:

Dr. Dennis Shuman of P’nai Or Gainesville Jewish Renewal Congregation explains to those gathered at Gainesville City Hall, “We must do more than bless the food we eat; we must sanctify it by working harder to stop the exploitation of farm labor.”

“The demands of conscience, of the Godly requirements of justice and compassion, call us to support the Campaign for Fair Food!”

Last Thursday, in an interfaith assembly spanning the Abrahamic traditions, nearly two dozen local religious leaders held a press conference at Gainesville City Hall to release a stirring open letter to Publix, Florida’s largest privately held corporation that has for two years resisted mounting calls to join the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food. Publix has thirteen stores in Gainesville.

The event, which was organized by the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice and Affiliated Congregations to Improve Our Neighborhoods, provided the faith and community leaders with an opportunity to both denounce the long history of abuse in Florida’s fields, as well as to celebrate some of the groundbreaking changes recently made possible by the Campaign for Fair Food.

Dr. Saeed Khan of the Hoda Center Mosque, for example, decried the prevalence of wage theft by relating the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed from the Hadeeth (“Pay the worker his wage before his sweat dries”), while Rev. Jack Donovan of Highlands Presbyterian Church discussed the crucial importance of the Fair Food accords in the context of the ongoing fight against modern-day slavery in U.S. agriculture (a struggle that hit close to home in Alachua county last September).

Students from the University of Florida took part of the event as well, distributing a copy of a resolution passed by the school’s student government, whose student body comprises nearly half of the city’s population.

The event closed by echoing the letter’s own powerful conclusion:

“As the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. teaches us, ‘In a real sense, all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’ Farmworkers, supermarkets and consumers, we are all bound together.

We, the undersigned Gainesville faith leaders, urge Publix Super Markets, Inc, to affirm this reality and work with the CIW to do what is needed to bring the bounty of justice to all of our tables.” read more

And if you have a moment, don’t miss the local media coverage: