“Truth crushed to earth shall rise again”…



On morning of Day Six, News-Press article belies Publix disinformation campaign against CIW’s Fair Food Program

“‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).

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“You may well ask: ‘Why direct action?’ Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path? You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored…

Nonviolent action brings to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…” (Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

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As workers and their allies prepare to end their week-long fast outside Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland, an article in today’s edition of the Ft. Myers News-Press, “Publix protesters set to end six-day fast,” takes a closer look at Publix’s stated reasons for not joining the CIW’s Fair Food Program. And what it finds effectively shreds the company’s public relations talking points, leaving Publix with nowhere to hide from the swelling consumer demand that Florida’s largest company stop stalling and start doing its part to end the state’s Harvest of Shame. Here’s an extended excerpt:

“… For months, the company has responded with an essentially two-part argument:
  • It pays market price for its tomatoes, so the premium should be ‘put in the price’.
  • It won’t pay other companies’ employees.

In an email Friday, Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten wrote, “Our position remains the same and there were no unexpected developments during the event.”

But, said Laura Safer Espinoza, executive director of the Fair Food Standards Council, a nonprofit that oversees the Fair Food Program, the extra money is indeed built into the price. What’s more, the coalition has never asked Publix to pay workers directly.

McDonald’s, Sodexo and Whole Foods all pay for tomatoes as they always have, except now they pay the premium as well.

Growers pay workers except workers now get the bonus as well.

Every one of those buyers is doing what Publix says it’s willing to do, said Safer Espinoza; the heart of the matter is choice.

“Buyers have joined the program in response to appeals to conscience and with the support of their consumers,” she said. “They have made the choice to pay the extra penny and they do so knowing they are not paying someone else’s employee.”

Publix’s statements are reminiscent, says member Greg Asbed, of how Burger King lied about the fair Food Program in 2007, before it reversed its position and signed the accord. In interviews and news releases, then-Burger King executive Steve Grover said the coalition was demanding large annual checks to be paid directly to the coalition – all false.

The time has come for Publix to tell the truth, said coalition member and faster Nely Rodriguez.

“After going without food for a week, we want the people who run Publix to sit at the table with us and look us in the eye… We want Publix to explain to us how they can claim to be a responsible neighbor given the way they have behaved toward farmworkers and misled their customers for the past several years,” she said.

“I don’t believe they would be able to look us in the eye and justify these things. And if not, they need to come forward and do what is right.”

Since 2007, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has invited the leaders of Publix to sit at the table and negotiate a Fair Food Agreement. Through letters, phone calls, post cards, emails, petitions, marches, rallies and prayers, the CIW’s allies have echoed the workers’ call and pressed Publix to join the the Fair Food Program, the first hope for real, lasting, structural change for farmworkers in the history of Florida agriculture.

Publix has refused to meet with the CIW. After years of rejection, and an increasingly disingeunous disinformation campaign from Publix, workers determined that they would undertake a fast (for the record, this is now the second article to belie Publix’s claims, Bill Maxwell of the Tampa Bay Times also concluded, “I believe the company is disingenuous when it accuses the CIW of asking it to pay the employees of other employers directly”). Together with their allies, they wanted to demonstrate the urgent moral call for Publix to put its support behind the dramatic improvements in human rights and social responsibility that have been growing through the Fair Food Program.

In choosing a fast, the farmworkers reached for what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “soul force;” that non-violent power of love that is able to face injustice and violence head on and, through sacrifice and hope, overcome it. As Dr. King wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

“… injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

Today’s News-Press article is proof that Dr. King’s theory of non-violence holds true today. Time after time, Publix repeated its baseless arguments against the Fair Food Program to the press, and time after time, their claims went unquestioned. Until now.

Truth crushed to earth has risen again.

By putting their own bodies on the line, by their compelling sacrifice, workers and their allies have managed to create a “soul force” powerful enough to cut through the fog of Publix’s distortions and expose the truth.

The fasters can now rest. Publix’s resistance won’t end here, of course. They will continue to fight. They may even escalate their strategy of distorting the truth, it has happened before in the history of the Campaign for Fair Food.

But the truth is now on record. It is time now for the clergy, students, labor, and community leaders that have rallied to the workers’ fast to not just ask, but demand, that Publix come to the table.

It is time now for Florida’s richest corporation to stop trying to undermine a remarkable program that is helping Florida’s poorest workers and instead do its part to help end the state’s Harvest of Shame.

Join us today for the procession and closing ceremony of the Fast for Fair Food, and take three minutes this morning to watch this incredible video from the fasters: