Advocacy & Activism, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Employers & Employment, Wages

Buying Produce Supports ‘Modern Day Slavery’

From NewsChannel5.com, “Buying Produce Supports ‘Modern Day Slavery’,” 26 Mar 2011.

ANTIOCH, TN – In protest to end what some workers are calling “modern day slavery,” dozens of people stood in the rain Saturday against practices of one major grocery story buying tomatoes.

It’s a protest calling attention to what some say is support of demeaning and unfair working pay for Florida tomato working.

With the help of a translator, Oscar Otzoy, one of those farm workers describes what things are like.

“It’s very difficult to be a farm worker. You might work 10 to 12 hours in a day and only come home with fifty dollars,” said Otzoy.

He says the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, CIW, is targeting one of the largest Southeastern Grocer Publix, whose headquarters is in Florida.

Otzoy adds with the help of his interrupter, “And we are calling on Publix and other super markets to join in these agreements to help raise farmer worker wages and eliminate the abuses that make possible the extreme of modern day slavery.”

The protest is calling for stores like Publix to pay an extra one cent per pound of tomatoes purchased, with the penny going not to the farmers, but directly to the workers.

This is what causes a debate between the Publix and the CIW and its supporters.

“For us, it is a labor dispute between the growers and the pickers, so we encourage them to get together and resolve the problem, and then charge a fair price for tomatoes and we will pay a fair price,” said Brenda Reid, with the regional media and communications department for Publix.

Katy Savage, a Nashville resident and Student Farm Worker Alliance member says, “They’re trying to say growers raise your prices and see if we still  buy from you, and the growers aren’t going to do it. Farmers aren’t making tons of money in this economy. The people making tons of money in this economy are the corporations.”

Reid says, “We don’t mind paying the extra one cent per pound, but we would like you to include it in the price rather than pay a separate party.”

“If they don’t mind paying the extra penny, great, pay in to the farm workers. Have some responsibility for the workers who are doing,” says Savage.

That’s a business practice Reid with Publix says is an unfair demand.

Reid suggests, “For example if you were to come into my store and pay for your groceries and I said, ‘there is going to be an extra five dollar charge for the cashiers to work here’ that’s just an uncommon situation.”

Although this protest may not accomplish anything today– it is allowing concerns from both side heard.

See video at: Video Report

Read at: NewsChannel5.com, “Buying Produce Supports ‘Modern Day Slavery’,” 26 Mar 2011.

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