Sunday, January 15, 2012

IN HAEC VERBA: Unanswered Letter to PUBLIX Chairman Regarding Human Rights for Florida Farm Workers Who Provide PUBLIX' Tomatoes


December 21, 2011
Mr. Charles H. Jenkins, Jr., Chairman
Publix Super Markets, Inc.
3300 Publix Corporate Parkway
Lakeland, FL 33811 via fax to 863-284-5532


Dear Mr. Jenkins:

Your late father stated, “Don't let making a profit get in the way of doing the right thing.” We agree.

Will you please agree to increase the price of tomatoes by one penny per pound, as many other large organizations have done, in order to secure a living wage for farm workers and their families?

My late mentor, Stetson Kennedy, picketed PUBLIX over this issue before he died at nearly 95 years of age. Often called “Florida’s Homer,” Stetson Kennedy infiltrated and helped expose the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Kennedy actually called me “Stetson Kennedy, Jr.” the second time we met. In his honor and spirit, please expect that people in St. Augustine and St. Johns County will picket your Vilano Beach store opening on January 12-14, 2012. Please don’t play Scrooge with farm workers’ lives.

Will you please join with the Florida Tomato Growers’ Exchange, Whole Foods, McDonald's and Subway to require more humane labor standards from their tomato suppliers and pay a tiny price premium for those more fairly produced tomatoes? These firms also buy only from growers who meet those high standards. Yet Publix has actively resisted join the Fair Food Program. Why? What do you reckon?

People of faith and good will throughout Florida agree: it is time for PUBLIX to respect human rights. I’ve lived in Florida since 1995 and the only problem I’ve ever had with PUBLIX is the farm workers’ issue. PUBLIX is a fine store with good products. Please don’t let the stain of slavery destroy your reputation and your bottom line in the name of expediency.

I look forward to talking with you tomorrow, and to meeting you at the opening of the PUBLIX on Vilano Beach on January 12 and 14th, 2012. In the event that you do not respond affirmatively, please expect pray-ins, picketing and boycotts, in the spirit of Stetson Kennedy, whose courage inspires us all to do better.

Please govern yourself accordingly. Thank you.


Ed Slavin
Clean Up City of St. Augustine, Florida
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085
215-554-1187 (cellular)

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