Protesters Target Publix Over Tomatoes
by Chris Cannon
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nearly 100 people marched along West End Avenue in Nashville to protest wages workers in Florida are paid to harvest tomatoes.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers came to Nashville to protest Publix's stance on their Fair Food Program.
"As part of the Fair Food Program, yes, we are calling on them to pay just a penny more per pound bonus that goes to increase workers pay that has been stagnant for decades," Oscar Otzoy said through a translator.
A dozen companies a part of the Fair Food Program, including Walmart, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King, Whole Food and Trader Joe's. Publix, nor any major grocery store chain, is part of the program.
"They have no excuse not to participate in something that ensures just basic rights for farm workers," Otzoy said.
The workers, who came to Nashville from Florida, and other protestors marched along West End Avenue for three miles.
Bob St. Peter is a farmer from Maine who traveled to Nashville to support the coalition.
"They have all but eliminated slavery in Florida. They've raised wages, improved conditions, and Publix, at this point is really just in the way," St. Peter explained.
Nearly two hours later the protesters arrived at the Belle Meade Publix at the Hill Center on Harding Pike. They marched and chanted on the public street alongside the grocery store.
Publix manager and security officers stood at the store's entrances and watched the protest. A spokeswoman from Atlanta traveled to Nashville to answers questions about the event.
"We want to sell groceries, we want to sell tomatoes, and we are willing to pay the price," said Brenda Reid with Publix Super Markets.
While Publix is willing to pay the extra penny per pound, they are not willing to do it in the manner the Fair Food Program collects that penny through a third party.
"Our argument is, we are happy to pay one cents more per pound, but we would like for them to put that in the price of the product, because that's what we are paying for, product, we're not paying another company for their labor," Reid explained.
The protest lasted more than two hours. During the march and at Publix, more than six Metro Police officers blocked traffic along the march route.