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Saturday, June 15, 2024

"Welcome to Publix, where shopping is oppression" is one of the five signs protestors are holding today at the grand opening ceremony for a Publix in Ocala.

Members of the Gainesville Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice attended the 7 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony and 8 a.m. grand opening of the Publix at 3305 SE Maricamp Road.

The demonstration was held to call attention to the refusal of Publix officials to pay a slight increase for Florida tomatoes.

Representatives of the Immokalee farmworkers, who harvest the tomatoes, have been negotiating with various large corporations to raise the price of tomatoes by a penny per pound, according to Kimberly Hunter, a co-founder of the Gainesville Interface Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

The slight increase would greatly improve the workers' quality of life, Hunter said.

The workers are currently paid 50 cents for a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes. Their wage has remained the same since the 1980s.

"If they're able to pick two tons of tomatoes in 10 hours, they get 50 dollars a day," Hunter said.

If Publix would agree to pay the additional penny, the workers would get 82 cents per 32-pound bucket, thus increasing their overall pay.

Representatives for the workers have been trying to speak with Publix officials for three years, according to Hunter.

Their demonstration at the grand opening is the first of numerous, similar nationwide events next week, sponsored the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

"It takes persistence and all the other corporations have come on board," Hunter said. "Publix seems to be a company with a conscience, and it makes no sense that it wouldn't sign."

Nine corporations have agreed to the higher prices, including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Aramark, Sodexo, Whole Foods, Compass Group and Bon Appetit.

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Trader Joe's, another grocery chain, has also not yet agreed to the prices.

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