+ Publix penny-per-pound stance lacks justifiable merit
The splendid new Longboat Key Publix certainly reflects a high standard in terms of physical amenity, quality food products and customer service. I have long admired how Publix’s corporate success has been coupled with the company’s generous commitment to the greater community.
This is why Publix’s stance regarding the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) effort to achieve a mere penny per pound increase for picked tomatoes is so surprising and disconcerting.
As reported by the Longboat Observer’s Robin Hartill (“Workers group protest Publix,” Dec. 19), Publix’s website claims the supermarket giant “is more than willing to pay a penny more per pound or whatever the market price for tomatoes will be — in order to provide product for our customers. However, we will not pay employees of other companies for their labor. That is the responsibility of their employer, and we believe all parties would be better served if appropriate wages were paid by growers to their workers, and we were charged accordingly.”
Basically, this is a smokescreen response. Although other major food providers such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Aramark, Sodexo, McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, and Chipotle have all found a way to pay that extra penny, Publix executives, with all their corporate smarts, have been unable to do it. In fact, they refuse to even meet with CIW representatives about the matter.
Instead, Publix officials focus on trivial things such as making sure police quickly act to have CIW move a case of water deemed too close to Publix property. This echoed my experience earlier this year at a CIW protest in front of Publix’s corporate headquarters, in Lakeland.
After arriving to find numerous protesters stationed on the grass berm between the sidewalk and the street, I soon asked where people went to go the bathroom, because there were no facilities nearby. I was told that a trailer hauling several porta-potties would come by in a half-an-hour. Because such bathrooms were theoretically not permitted for more than 30 minutes at a time at that location, Publix insisted that police send the trailer away every time the limit was reached. This is indicative Publix’s needlessly spiteful and obdurate attitude.
I have visited Immokalee and seen first-hand the impoverished conditions migrant workers there confront. I, and others, have joined with CIW because we believe strongly in the justice of its cause. CIW protests are always orderly. There is never unruly behavior, threatening words or profanity. Rather, a positive and uplifting spirit of shared struggle characterizes it.
In my view, as long as Publix won’t even deign to sit down with CIW, its position on the penny-per-pound issue lacks justifiable merit.
Rabbi Jonathan Katz
+ Thank you to Keena Robinette for the Beachplace holiday lighting
All of us on Longboat Key want to thank Keena Robinette, of Beachplace, for the wonderful job she did designing the clever package and gift card to Longboat Key, which won first place in this year’s condominium category in the Light Up the Keys contest. Robinette always offers fresh ideas, and this year she worked to make our design appealing to both adults and children, because so many residents have grandchildren visiting over the holidays. We hope everyone on the Key takes joy in her creativity.