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Marching for One More Penny: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Pickets Publix Supermarkets in Tampa Bay

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Nolan Kline
University of South Florida

Not My Usual Walk to the Grocery Store

It’s 11:00am on Saturday and I walk out of my second floor apartment after finishing my coffee.  In the distance I hear car horns honking, cheers, and an indiscernible chant.  I immediately recognize the energized din as part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) second day of protesting, four blocks away at my neighborhood grocery store, Publix.  The CIW is a community-based activist organization that started in Immokalee, Florida, one of the state’s key agricultural towns. Founded in 1993, the CIW advocates for the rights of agricultural workers across the country.  Through its successful Fair Food Campaign, the CIW has negotiated with retailers like Whole Foods and fast food chains such as Subway, Burger King, and Taco Bell to pay growers one penny more for produce, allowing growers to increase compensation for farmworkers.

As I walk towards my neighborhood Publix I begin to identify words in the chant, having heard them from the protests that started the day before:

“Up, up with the fair food nation!  Down, down with the exploitation!”

I arrive at the Publix I frequent two to three times a week and am stunned by how unfamiliar it looks; the ordinarily desolate sidewalk surrounding the store teems with protestors wearing bright green shirts, carrying signs with slogans about farmworker hardship or calling for corporate responsibility. “Publix profits from Poverty,” reads one sign; “Consumers Crave a Living Wage,” reads another.

There are far more protestors at this Publix than the one I had visited the day before, and I join the protest line as one of the organizers yells a new chant for us to follow:

“No more slaves! Pay a living wage!” Read more…

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