November 12 Publix Action


“We knocked once and the door was closed…”


Allies from the Unitarian Universalist congregations from across Florida joined farmworkers from Immokalee and their families this past Saturday in Port Charlotte, FL, calling on Publix to not only come to the Thanksgiving table, but to join the 11 corporate buyers at the table of the Fair Food Program.

“… but we will knock again.”

In the crisp air of a beautiful fall day in Florida, 70 leaders from 11 Unitarian Universalist congegrations and fellowships gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Charlotte County for a day of reflection and action. Building off of a summertime Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, Arizona, these leaders spent the day strategizing around how to move forward in their long-standing partnership and collaboration with the CIW.

The day began with a core practice of the Coalition: Popular education. Adapting an oft-used theatre piece for the occasion, CIW staff facilitated a presentation involving two goats, both straining to reach a bowl of food, tied together with not quite enough rope to both reach their bowls simultaneously. After moments of pulling against each other, the two came together, and after some dialogue (much baa-ing), they worked together to eat from one bowl, and then the other. As participants shared their insights, the message became crystal clear: Only by working together can farmworkers and their allies achieve their goals: just wages and dignified work, on the one hand, and a fulfilling spiritual life that follows the call to do justice, on the other.

Beyond building greater collaboration between Floridian UUs, these faith leaders had another objective in mind for the weekend: Show Publix the profound weight of a faith community united behind the Fair Food Program. Joining over 50 farmworkers from Immokalee for a demonstration, the pastors sang and marched in the streets of Port Charlotte, and then ventured across the Publix parking lot for a delegation. The Publix manager’s response, even by the low standards we’ve come to anticipate after three years of a campaign, was disappointing.

After refusing to allow the members of the delegation to introduce themselves and rejecting an offer to step outside to talk, the manager curtly told the pastors, “Get out of my store” — and proceeded to retreat to her office, closing the door behind her.

The manager’s decision to turn her back and close the door on the delegation was a resounding echo of the response of Publix’s executives to the call by farmworkers and their faith allies for Florida’s largest grocer to support the Fair Food Program. But the delegation, like the Campaign for Fair Food more broadly, remained undaunted by the manager’s rejection of their appeal for justice. In the words of the Rev. Amy Kindred of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Charlotte County said after rejoining the protest: “We knocked once and the door was closed. But we will knock again.”

And Fair Food activists across the country will be knocking again soon as we kick off the Thanksgiving Week of Supermarket Action tomorrow! Check in with us at organize@sfalliance.org for an updated list of actions, and for the resources to plan your own!

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