The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Interfaith Action and the Student-Farmworkes Alliance are marching to end modern-day slavery in the United States. They also want Publix, the major food retail chain in Florida to agree to pay farmworkers 1 cent more a bucket for the tomatoes they pick.
Numbering nearly a thousand strong, protesters have been marching for two days, from Plant City, Florida, to Lakeland. Today the workers and their supporters, converged on Publix supermarket in the bustling agricultural town of Lakeland.
Despite a steady drizzle, marchers laid a double picket line down the entire long block of the Publix shopping center, marching, singing and dancing. Bilingual chants of "Hey hey, ho ho Publix poverty has got to go!" and Publix, escucha, el pueblo esta en la lucha!
A stream of vehicles drove past the protesters, many honking their horns in support. Publix representatives stood in front of the store watching. Neither traffic nor commerce was disrupted.
Local resident Jim Crow, donned a green End Publix Povery shirt to express his support for the marchers. "Publix is a great company. They do good things for the community, but they are wrong on this issue," he said.
The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Four-thousand members strong, they have convinced Burger King, MacDonalds, Taco Bell Subway, and Whole Foodsto pay fair wages for their harvest work. Publix, is the only holdout.
Before a wildly supportive crowd at the post-picket rally, Gerardo Reyes Chavez adrssed the crowd in Spanish, "Publix is at a crossroads... they can take the road of justice.. or continue on the road of exploitation!"
A group of children took the stage to lead the crowd in the chant of "J-U-S-T-I-C-E what we want is justice in Immokolee!" Later, a young woman took the stage to cries of "If we don't get no justice, Publix gets no peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace!
The CIW has become one of the leading voices in the struggle for food justice reaching out to community food secuity organizations and fair food campaigns across the United States.