JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of protestors hit the pavement Thursday night to deliver a message to two massive corporations.
Florida farm workers and their supporters marched down University Boulevard West, starting at the Wendy's and ending at the Publix. They were calling for the Florida-based retail giant, Publix, and international burger chain, Wendy's, to join the Fair Food program.
The local march is part of a nationwide push to pressure both Publix Super Markets and Wendy's restaurants to join the growing support for the Fair Food program, which is battling for better wages and working conditions for farm workers. The group wants to address and "eliminate decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation's trillion-dollar food industry."
"Publix and Wendy's are supporting farmworker poverty and exploitation through their unconscionable refusal to join their competitors in support of the Fair Food Program," said Oscar Otzoy, a farmworker and member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. "These multibillion dollar retailers have turned their back on a program that is setting the international gold standard for the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains. Now is the time for both Publix and Wendy's to join the Fair Food Program, and uphold the rights and dignity of farmworkers who pick the tomatoes sold in their stores and restaurants."
The Fair Food Program is a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers and 12 leading food corporations.
"The day in the life of the worker is changing and the eight to 10 hours that we stay in the fields a day or more can actually be compensated as they should, where we have our rights respected. Where as in the past that certainly wasn't the case," said a local farm worker.
The specific requests include asking corporations to pay an extra penny-per-pound of goods, which protestors say will be passed down to the workers.
A local Publix spokesperson responded to the protest Thursday night.
"One of the concerns of the works is a penny per pound. We'd be happy to pay the additional penny if it's a place into the price of goods," said Dwaine Stevens, media and community relations manager of Publix.