Make us your home page
Instagram

At St. Petersburg Publix, protesters march over farmworkers' pay

A crowd protests migrant workers’ pay at a St. Petersburg Publix on Sunday. Publix says the workers’ effort is misplaced, that the dispute is “between the farms and the farmworkers.”

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

A crowd protests migrant workers’ pay at a St. Petersburg Publix on Sunday. Publix says the workers’ effort is misplaced, that the dispute is “between the farms and the farmworkers.”

ST. PETERSBURG — For 9-year-old Jalen Dixon and his mother, Teneka Dixon, a Sunday trip to the supermarket turned into a teaching moment about labor disputes.

When the mother and son pulled into the Publix parking lot on 54th Avenue S about 3 p.m., more than 100 protesters were marching along the sidewalk, shouting in English and Spanish: "No more slaves, pay the minimum wage," among other provocative slogans.

The protesters were backing the Coalition of Immokalee workers, a community group made up of farmworkers from southwest Florida. In the past, the group has pressured large companies like McDonald's and Whole Foods to pay more for tomatoes harvested by migrant workers.

Now, the coalition has moved on to Florida's largest supermarket chain.

Instead of ignoring the gaggle of community groups, farmworkers and labor activists bristling with an arsenal of megaphones and colorful signs, Dixon took her son toward the fracas.

"They're not really getting paid," she told him.

For several minutes, the pair watched. They listened to a farmworker shout demands through a megaphone in Spanish, and a volunteer translate to English.

In short: The group wants Florida's green giant of grocery stores to pay its suppliers a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked, an increase that could represent a nearly twofold increase in farmworkers' daily wage.

Publix representatives hovered nearby. The company had cameramen capturing the action. St. Petersburg police officers also stood vigil, keeping the protest off Publix property, and the passing cars away from the protesters.

The mother explained to her son why so many people seemed so angry.

"It's a hard thing to do. It's a lot of hours," Dixon said. "You don't want to work 10, 12 hours in a field and only make pennies, right?"

The boy shook his head. Decidedly, no.

Publix representative Shannon Patten, who has been present at most of the coalition's supermarket protests around the state in recent weeks, said the workers' efforts are misplaced.

"It's a dispute between the farms and the farmworkers," Patten said. "We just don't get involved."

Patten said Publix does not set the price of tomatoes and pays market value for its produce.

One of the farmworkers who had come from Southwest Florida for the protest, Silvia Perez, had strong words for the Fortune 500 company. "Publix has two options. They can embrace fair wages, or buy from a harvest of shame," Perez said.

And for a mother teaching her son a thing or two about wages and tomatoes, market value might not be good enough.

"They don't set the price, but they should still do the right thing," Dixon said.

About done with the day's lesson, Jalen piped up.

"Can we get something from Publix now?" he said.

"Sure. Let's get some ice cream. But do you think we should get tomatoes here?" Dixon asked.

"No," her son said.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951

At St. Petersburg Publix, protesters march over farmworkers' pay 11/15/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 16, 2009 11:41am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  2. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]