From Change.org, “Publix Runs Low on Weak Excuses That Prop Up Poverty” by Amanda Kloer, 5 Apr 2011.
For two years now, Publix supermarkets have been creating sad excuses to explain why they won’t help fight human trafficking and exploitation in the tomato industry. But the well of self-justification is starting to run a little dry these days. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers recently publicly responded to every excuse for not supporting farmworkers’ rights that the company has thrown at them in the past couple years. Will running out of excuses finally make Publix “do the right thing?”
Publix has employed a number of linguistic tricks to try and wriggle out of what they’re being asked to do — pay a tiny bit more for tomatoes to help raise farmworker wages by a penny per pound and prevent serious human rights abuses, like human trafficking, in the industry. The most recent excuse has been telling the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food that they should include the wage boost in the total price of tomatoes charged to Publix. Interestingly enough, that is exactly what the Campaign for Fair Food already does. Grocery chains like Whole Foods who have joined the campaign agree to pay a small premium on their tomato purchases. The premium in turn gets passed on to workers and goes to support systems that prevent and address common abuses like sexual harassment and wage theft, as well as slavery.
Before they showed that they obviously haven’t listened to the CIW enough to even understand — much less consider — their request, Publix presented a myriad other excuses, which the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has now systematically answered. They’ve made minimum wage arguments, claiming both that minimum wages have increased since the 1970s, and that the current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Both those claims are true, but the vast majority of farmworkers aren’t paid hourly. They’re paid for each pound of tomatoes they pick, and to make minimum wage at the current rate, they would have to pick over 500 pounds of tomatoes an hour. Publix has also claimed that because they give their employees stock, they shouldn’t be criticized for supporting farmworker abuse. Really? And, of course, there was that old “atrocities in our supply chain are none of our business” debacle. But we’re all hoping Publix has realized corporate apathy isn’t a good PR strategy.
Now that the CIW has debunked Publix’s arsenal of excuses, the company will either have to scramble to come up with new ones or bite the bullet and stop propping up an antiquated system than keeps farmworkers in poverty and exploitation. And as much fun as it has been to see Publix’s weak excuses shredded, I’m hoping they go with the second choice.