The threat of summer showers failed to discourage Immokalee farmworkers and their families to team up with committed allies of the Greater Orlando community for a high-energy march, cranking up the heat on the Wendy’s and Publix campaign in Central Florida. On Sunday, a crowd of over 75 gathered in South Semoran to deliver an undeniable message to Publix and Wendy’s: human rights protections for farmworkers are possible thanks to the Fair Food Program, and consumers of the 21st century will settle for nothing less!
As the Florida Summer of Action surges on, picking up steam from sister protests throughout the state, the Orlando community surely left its mark on the campaign trail.
Before kick-off, the spirited crowd gathered outside of Wendy’s for a colorful picket as the busy stream of Sunday afternoon traffic heading down S. Semoran looked on. CIW led the way, chanting the truths of the Fair Food Nation: “One! We are the people. Two! A little bit louder. Three! We want justice for farmworkers...”
Wearing their signature, bright yellow T-shirts, members of First Unitarian Church of Orlando, including the Rev. Kathy Schmitz, took up the Fair Food banner alongside CIW. The Youth and Young Adult (YAYA) Network of the National Farmworker Ministry and the Orlando Democratic Socialists of America made a presence, too. The beautiful multi-generational action, consisting of grandparents and young children, students and religious leaders, made it clear to Publix and Wendy’s that conscious consumers won’t budge until they sign a Fair Food Agreement to guarantee farmworkers’ fundamental human rights!
Soon after, the protest took off to Publix! The Florida-based grocery giant has ignored the urgent call, by tens of thousands of farmworkers and consumers in their home state, to join the Presidential Medal-winning Fair Food Program for nearly a decade now.
As the action wrapped up, the Fair Food delegation shared about their exchange with the representatives deployed by Publix to save corporate face at the public demonstration, who repeated Publix’s same tired excuses for rejecting the Fair Food Program.
Tareek Leonard from YAYA and Florida Student Power Network responded, “Farmworkers have been some of the most vocal leaders in calling on corporations to take responsibility for the exploitation in their supply chains. And we know that one day, because of our work together, Publix will join the Fair Food Program!”
CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo closed it out with a powerful analysis on Publix’s staunch refusal to join the only proven solution to eliminate and prevent wage theft, gender-based violence and modern-day slavery in the fields:
“This is the kind of company Publix truly is. They never want to look at farmworkers in the eye, even after all these years. We are not tired of fighting for justice, that is not who we are. But what we are tired of is abuse - abuse in the supply chain of Publix.”
The spokespeople for Publix and Wendy’s social responsibility issues have made a profession out of denying both the reality of farmworkers’ exploitation and corporations’ undeniable obligation to consumers for ensuring freedom from abuse and discrimination in their supply chains.
As the Greater Orlando community made loud and clear this weekend, the Alliance for Fair Food will continue taking public action until Publix and Wendy’s live up to their shared value of “Doing the right thing.”
Stay tuned as the Florida Summer of Action continues its trek through the Sunshine State. Next up: Miami!