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Farmworkers, supporters to march in Tampa; continue demands on Wendy’s, Publix

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

On Wednesday afternoon, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) will make its final stop in Tampa on a 12-city “Return to Human Rights Tour.”

There, the CIW will march from a Publix location to a Wendy’s franchise in Tampa, to escalate its national boycott against the hamburger chain.

Both the March and Vigil for Human Rights is a CIW boycott in response to the retailer’s decision to abandon its relationship with tomato growers and shift purchases to Mexico rather than participate in the in its Fair Food Program, a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and fourteen major food retailers, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wal-Mart.

Participants are scheduled to arrive at the Publix Greenwise in Tampa’s Hyde Park neighborhood at 5 p.m. Wednesday (2401 W. Azeele St.) They’ll then take the mile-long walk, concluding with a candlelight vigil at Wendy’s (1615 W. Kennedy Blvd.).

In Florida, the tour also mobilizes consumers to continue calling on Publix Supermarkets to take responsibility for working conditions in its supply chain. Despite growing consumer demand, the Lakeland-based grocer has also refused to join the Fair Food Program.

Founded in 1993, the human-rights organization led by farmworkers spearheaded the Fair Food Program in 2011, which asks corporations to buy “exclusively from suppliers who meet a worker-driven code of conduct, which includes a zero-tolerance policy for forced labor and sexual harassment,” a Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network news release says. Corporations must also pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes they purchase from their suppliers, which helps pay workers better wages.

Corporations must also pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes they buy from suppliers, which helps pay workers better wages.

Since 2011, buyers have paid more than $22 million into the program.

The CIW launched the national boycott of Wendy’s in 2016 after the company shifted its purchases from Florida to Mexico following the implementation of the Fair Food Program.

“This is not the first time that the CIW, the Florida-based activist group, has staged protests as part of their campaign against our company,” responds Wendy’s spokesperson Heidi Schauer on Wednesday. “This is a commercial dispute — the simple reality is that their actions show that the CIW objects to the fact that we don’t pay fees to their organization. This group orchestrates publicity events and distributes misleading information about our company and our suppliers.

“We do not believe that joining the Fair Food Program is the only way to act responsibly, and we pride ourselves on our relationships with industry-leading suppliers who share our commitment to quality, integrity and ethics. “

Wendy’s has more information on the Fair Food Program here.

“Wendy’s, in a typical corporate response to revelations of abuses in its supply chain, is attempting to obscure its indefensible behavior by smearing the CIW,” responded Steve Hitov, CIW general counsel. “First, nobody pays fees to the CIW to participate in the Fair Food Program, and the penny per pound premium goes directly from the participating buyers to the growers to the workers.  Second, it is not in any way misleading to let people know that Wendy’s yanked its tomato purchases from Florida, and moved them to the abusive fields of Mexico, precisely because Florida’s growers decided to respect the human rights of their workers.  That is what Wendy’s told the growers when it abandoned them after years of purchasing their tomatoes on a “no questions asked” basis, and no amount of corporate double speak can change that fact.”

Publix did not return comment. They have an elaborate statement on their website regarding their issue with the CIW here.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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