The Common Good

An Open Letter to Publix

Dear Publix Leadership,

L. Kragt Bakker / Shutterstock.com
Coalition of Immokalee Workers protest at an Atlanta Publix, L. Kragt Bakker / Shutterstock.com

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I should begin by saying that I am in almost all ways a big fan of your company. I often shop in a nearby Publix, and shopping there truly is a pleasure. It is clean. The staff are friendly and helpful. The products are good and the prices reasonable.

I'm especially impressed with the way Publix hires people with disabilities.

To provide a needed service and then go above and beyond in seeking to benefit the community — that's a winning combination, and a legacy to be proud of.

That's why I've been so surprised to see Publix (along with Wendy's) refusing (so far) to join the Fair Food Program. And that's why I've been outspoken in my desire to see Publix live up to the ideals of its founder, George Jenkins, who said, “Don’t let making a profit stand in the way of doing the right thing."

A few days ago, a group of farmworkers from Immokalee, Fla., set out on the 10-city "Now is the Time" tour to inform people about the Fair Food Campaign.

It's been a remarkable campaign so far. McDonald's signed on. Trader Joe's signed on. Taco Bell signed on. Most recently Wal-Mart signed on. Already, thousands of farmworkers are receiving a little better wage along with better, safer working conditions because management in the food industry — your colleagues — put doing the right thing first.

Pastor Miguel Estrada of Misión Peniel spoke this blessing over the "Now is the Time" messengers as they set out:

“You are the couriers of a fundamental message amidst the reality in which farmworkers find themselves. The need for justice is essential and the need for others to still join this effort continues to be true. And so we will continue to invite Publix and Wendy’s to come and reconcile with farmworkers so that they understand that they are a necessary part of bringing justice to those that work in the fields. And today, we ask that they repent … that they repent for the reality that they have fostered where there is no justice. And that is the message you bring today…

And so take this message. Bring it to the ten cities in which you will arrive. Let them know that reconciliation is possible … We know that a true message is not simply material, but it is something that we carry with us in our hearts. And if you believe that truth, it will be a powerful message.”

Because I am such a big fan of your company, and because I am such a big fan of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program, I'd like to make a suggestion.

Why don't you contact CIW right away and have some direct communication with them about joining the program?

Wouldn't it be great if on Saturday, when the tour comes to your home base in Lakeland (I'm planning to be there too), we could come not to protest and plead — but to celebrate and congratulate?

We're not asking you to do something very difficult. We're asking you to do the right thing.

I hope we can celebrate you joining the program on March 15!

Warmly,
Brian McLaren
a conscientious customer

Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, and networker who blogs at www.brianmclaren.net.

Image: Coalition of Immokalee Workers protest at an Atlanta Publix, L. Kragt Bakker / Shutterstock.com

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