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Episcopal priest asks Publix to pay 1¢ more for tomatoes

Episcopal priest asks Publix to pay 1¢ more for tomatoes reports on the Rev. Les Singleton and the campaign to help tomato workers have fair wages:

Father Les Singleton spoke Friday morning about pennies as he gripped a plastic bag, faintly emblazoned with the word “Publix,” holding two tomatoes at University Lutheran Church.

“We’re talking pennies. Pennies,” he said as he stood in a circle of people under a shaded walkway. “The Immokalee farmworkers are looking for a penny a pound.”

Singleton, who runs the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Micanopy, said earning that extra penny per pound lifts the hourly wage of tomato farmers in Immokalee from $7 to $12. Singleton’s father, Irby, worked in Immokalee’s fields in the 1930s.


The letter states: “Publix’s lack of respect for and continued refusal to meet with the workers who harvest the tomatoes you sell is inexplicable.”

Publix considers this issue a labor dispute between employer and employee, and has no place in such conflicts among its suppliers, according to an online media statement.

Its stance is to “put it in the price,” meaning suppliers should raise their prices accordingly in order to increase their employees’ wages. Publix will not pay suppliers’ employees directly, the company said.


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If I understand it correctly, Fr. Les is encouraging Publix, the distribution customer, to agree to pay its various tomatoe-farmer vendors and extra $0.01/lb. if the vendors agree to direct the penny to it’s field workers?

I think this may be a good idea, if I understand it all correctly. Essentially, the nerve-center of this entire biz is the distributor, Publix, and if IT agrees to the price change, then it makes it easier for all people involved to make the change. Provided the math is correct, of course…

Publix could make a real name for itself if it would engage with the idea, rather than back-pedal.

Kevin McGrane

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