The show put on for us at Publix was ridiculous. They had a cop car with the lights turned right out front. We are familiar with our local Publix manager from having visited and handed in over 200 letters from the community asking Publix to do the right thing So Joe the manager was waiting for us outside. Expecting us. The police made sure we knew we had to stay on the sidewalk and that only two of us could talk to Mr. Joe right when we arrived. They also don't let us take pictures and have us put away our camera's. But we had our own timeline and decided we would make him wait a little but by going to Wendy's first.
While flyering we met a lot of FIU students and talked to a lot of people. Between the eight of us we covered the block where publix is and the adjacent one where Wendy's is. At the same Wendy's I had previously left a manager letter, we met with a different manager. He explained he was the night manager and asked that we return the next day in the morning. Explaining to him that he also had the power and responsibility to pass on what we had to say to his superiors we insisted he take our letter. We asked if he would pass it on to and let his higher-ups know a group of eight students were here standing in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Reluctantly, he agreed. So despite some initial confusion, it was good to have informed one more Wendy's manager.
Now Publix was a different story. Upon walking over to Joe we noticed another older white man standing beside him. He was the one to receive the manager letter after we explained why we were there. Realizing what he must have been sent from Publix Corporate I asked this man (whose name I regret not asking) if he had flew in from Lakeland (the Publix headquarters and company town), where most Publix Executives live. He told me that he drove down from Lakeland. Then I said if he drove all way down here then he might as well visit Immokalee, Florida and see the conditions in which farmworkers who pick tomatoes for Publix live in for himself. He laughed off the suggestion.
But really, if Publix execs can fly around the country to where actions are happening why can't they visit Immokalee? Or better yet, pay the penny-per-pound of tomatoes we are asking for? It's going to take a lot to get them to do it - but it is going to happen. If there is one thing I have learned it is that corporations (or politician's, or most people in positions of power really) don't just do the right thing because they want to. They have to be pushed. So Publix if you are reading our facebook page to see when we are planning events, and reading this now, know that we are going to keep pushing until you come to the table. As my compas would say, it is not a matter of if you will work to improve working conditions for tomato pickeres but rather a matter of when you will do it. La lucha sigue!