Human Rights Day sparks Publix protest

Human Rights Day sparks Publix protest

By Julie Salomone. CREATED Dec 10, 2011

NAPLES- Brian McLaren is just one voice in the crowd.

"We're hoping to help folks gain some concern for our neighbors who pick tomatoes in the fields of Immokalee not too far from here," said McLaren.

The Coalition of Immokalee workers are now joined by members from the Occupy Naples movement, protesting Publix. The group says they want Publix to put people before profit.

The CIW wants Publix to sign a fair food agreement. They say it would improve farm workers wages and working conditions if Publix would pay just one more penny per pound of tomatoes.

"We really admire the Coalition of Immokalee workers. We of course are joining them because they are one of the major or rather leading human rights organizations in the nation," said Karen Dwyer, Occupy Naples organizer.

Saturday's site for protest is on US 41 and Immokalee Road. It's not too far from a Naples Publix. Protesters hold sings like "Honk for a fair wage" and "Support fair food."

"It's human rights day, human rights are workers rights," added Dwyer.

So what does the grocery store chain say about this?

In a statement a spokesperson writes, " We do not have a conflict with the CIW. The CIW is seeking to negotiate wages and working conditions of employment with the growers and the CIW is trying to drag Publix into these negotiations. This is a labor dispute and we simply aren't involved. "

Publix also adds, "As a retailer, we pay market value for tomatoes. We do NOT determine what the price is or should be, that price is set by the grower or packer. Again, we pay market value for tomatoes, or whatever they charge us. Simply stated, we are more than willing to pay a penny more per pound or whatever the market price for tomatoes will be in order to provide the goods to our customers.  We suggest that they put the cost of the tomatoes in the price they charge the industry."

Julie Salomone
Fox 4