Sept. 6, 1930 Publix corporation was born. I can’t imagine a better way for Publix to celebrate its birthday than by committing to end modern day slavery by joining the Fair Food Program of Florida’s farmworkers. As many of you know, we have been close friends of the Coalition of Immokalee workers for many years, and we have seen them persuade some of the most powerful companies in the world to join their movement. Now Publix has a chance to stand up for the dignity of the folks working on the farms by making a commitment to pay living wages and prevent abuse of workers. In the words of Publix founder, George Jenkins: “Don’t let making a profit get in the way of doing the right thing.”
Here’s a video of my speech at Publix headquarters earlier this year, and the transcription below.
It’s been an absolute privilege to call the farmworkers of Immokalee friends for 15 years.
And I’ll never forget in 2000 when we marched with this giant statue of liberty with a tomato in her hand. The police wouldn’t let us keep it on the truck so the workers said “well we’ll carry that thing.”
And we laid it at the offices of the growers’ association on that march.
Sadly, those 13 years ago the growers — they sent a statement announcing that the tractors don’t pull up to the farmer and tell him how to run the farm. And the farmworkers said: “We’re not tractors! Tractors don’t sweat, tractors don’t bleed, tractors don’t feel, and they don’t have children to feed.”
So, over a decade later, it’s a new day and that statue is in the Smithsonian Museum. People across this country realize that there is a movement on our hands that is making poverty history. And so we’ve come to Publix now with a very simple request. Eleven companies have jumped on board and now you get to be the twelfth. Make it an even dozen.
And some of the heads of Publix have said that this is the work of the government or the labor department. But we’re here to say “No, its never been the work of politicians to legislate love.” We’re here today with a very simple request, which is to love your neighbor as yourself.
And I pray that next year we won’t have a protest but we’ll have a celebration.
Photo provided by Shane Claiborne