Students chose to forgo a peaceful Sunday afternoon sleeping in to participate in a march in support of farmworkers’ rights.
The event, which was sponsored by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), took place at 1:00 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the local Publix on Bay Street. The purpose of the protest was to encourage the major retail food company to join other competitors, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, in the Fair Food Program.
“The CIW’s Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms,” reads the organization’s website. “It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.”
Publix has declined participation in the program for six years.
Participants arrived and grabbed picket signs and marched and chanted phrases in English and Spanish while cars drove past, some occasionally honking. Other protestors got to speak one-on-one with the manager of the Publix location to discuss the possibility of the supermarket joining the program. Protestors ranged in age, from children to senior citizens.
Students Targeting Oppressive Powers (STOP) advertised the march on the Forum.
“I thought it was a really good experience, everyone seemed really passionate and excited to be there,” second-year Rebecca Miles said. “I had a good time and it seemed as if everyone was really organized, which feels good, as opposed to a sort of a half organized protest. It was really organized and there was a group leading in with water and all that, it was really awesome.”
Miles stressed her interest in participating in another event like this. Previously, STOP has advertised other events in conjunction with the CIW as well as the Student Farmworker’s Alliance (SFA).
“Over 90 percent of Florida’s tomato growers have pledged to abide by the Fair Food Program,” the CIW said in a press release. “And with Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, participating in the Program since January of last year, the FFP has begun to expand both to crops outside of the tomato industry and to states beyond Florida. Through their protest, farmworkers and consumers call on Publix to ensure human rights and better wages for farmworkers laboring in their supply chain.”
More information about other events in the community can be found through contacting members of STOP as well as the SFA Facebook page.
Information for this article was taken from fairfoodprogram.org.