Farmworkers have long faced brutal conditions in the tomato fields of Florida: sub-poverty wages, wage theft, physical abuse and, in the most extreme cases, modern-day slavery.
Women and mothers who work in the fields face additional burdens that compound these difficulties. Verbal abuse. Sexual abuse. The inability to spend time with one’s children because such dismal wages require constant work — even on holidays, like Mother’s Day.
Fortunately, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — an internationally-recognized farmworker organization — has reached groundbreaking agreements with ten multi-billion dollar food retailers, including McDonald's, Subway and Trader Joe’s, now participants of the Fair Food Program. Tens of thousands of farmworkers are benefiting from a worker-designed code of conduct in the fields and a penny-per-pound pay increase — the first real increase in thirty years.
But Florida-based Publix Supermarkets, which touts itself for its concern for families, refuses to participate.
That’s why mothers are coming together — from both ends of the supply chain. Farmworker mothers and consumer mothers, bound by their universal desire to provide for their families, are uniting their voices to invite Publix to become a part of a solution that is already well underway — a solution that allows mothers to do their job, and to do it with dignity.
“On Mother's Day, we ask that you, Publix executives, recognize our affliction and the necessity of just wages for us as farmworkers, who as mothers are responsible for feeding our children," said Immokalee mother Carmen Esquivel.
Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas, a Publix customer, advocates for the Fair Food Campaign. "As a mother it is important to me that the food I put on the table is planted and harvested while maintaining farmworker dignity. I cannot very well ask the Lord to bless the food and forget the farmworker."
The CIW's Fair Food Program guarantees long-awaited respect and protection within the workplace. Both those who harvest Publix's produce and those who consume it deem it time for Publix to join.
As a family-oriented business in Florida, Publix should care about the poverty and abuse of farmworkers who harvest the food you sell—most of all farmworker mothers, who are affected not only by verbal and sexual abuse, but by sub-poverty wages that require constant work and prohibit a dignified life with one’s family.
Publix profits from the sale of tomatoes picked by these mothers. And yet for three years, it has refused to become a part of the solution to their poverty and abuse.
Beginning on Mother's Day 2012, mothers from across the supply chain are uniting to ask you Publix, a company who touts its concern for families, to support fair treatment of workers through the Fair Food Program. We await your participation in order to receive the respect and wages that enable them to spend Mother’s Day—and every day—supporting their families, and doing it with dignity.
In support of mothers everywhere,