The CIW's NC Publix Truth Tour is now underway, and the Immokalee crew's first stop in Asheville was a great success! After four days of back-to-back presentations and meetings with students at the University of North Carolina Asheville and Warren Wilson College, and a screening of "Food Chains," the CIW educated dozens upon dozens of students about the abuses traditionally faced by farmworkers in U.S. agriculture and the proven solution that is eradicating those abuses in the fields today – and Publix's resistance to be a part of that change despite its aggressive efforts to expand into North Carolina.
After soaking in the CIW's message and establishing a deep commitment to take action alongside farmworkers, the students and youth of Asheville turned out for a colorful and spirited protest – in the rain! – in front of the new Publix in town, sending a unified message to the Fair Food holdout: "If you want to expand into our community, you must expand your commitment to human rights!"
With the CIW's Fair Food Program now expanding to states outside of Florida, including North Carolina, the time is more pressing than ever for Publix to join the CIW at the table and use their tremendous market power to strengthen and further expand farmworkers' human rights.
Don't miss the Truth Tour crew's first-hand report from the mountainous roads of the Tarheel State:
Last week, the North Carolina Publix Truth Tour had an incredible first stop in Asheville, where community members warmly welcomed the tour crew into their classrooms, congregations and communities — and then joined us at Publix for the first protest of the tour!
Our days in this friendly mountain town were packed with efforts to connect with allies and then take action together. Students at University of North Carolina Asheville and Warren Wilson College were moved by the CIW’s message, and then brought together their own plans to join the Sunday picket. CIW was also welcomed to services at Beth Israel Congregation, who connected with the Fair Food delegation through T’ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. Asheville FM Community Radio helped spread the word further about CIW’s visit to town and the upcoming protest, interviewing the CIW’s Santiago Perez about the incredible changes the Fair Food Program has brought to the agricultural industry as well as the campaign to bring Publix on board, especially as they seek to expand their stores in North Carolina.
We also brought the story of the Fair Food Program and Publix’s refusal to join to fellow workers in the Western North Carolina area, many of whom follow the tomato harvest north from Florida during the summer. CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo and Santiago Perez were interviewed on the airwaves of JM Pro, a radio and video production viewed by hundreds in the Western North Carolina worker community. They shared the exciting news not only of the burgeoning Publix campaign in Asheville and across the state, but also of the new expansion of the Fair Food Program into North Carolina, which began this past summer as CIW traveled to farms up the east coast, talking to thousands more workers about their new rights.
On Thursday evening, workers, students and other community members were brought together for a screening of the award-winning documentary “Food Chains” at the local Carolina Cinema. The screening and talkback was well-attended by locals, and even a group who drove an hour from the farmworker community in neighboring Sylva, with the Vecinos Farmworker Health Program, to hear from the CIW. They were excited not only to join CIW's Campaign for Fair Food going forward, but also to share more information about the Fair Food Program’s expansion with the farmworkers in the state of North Carolina.
The Asheville tour stop culminated in a spirited picket at Publix that could not be dampened even by the afternoon rain! Inspired by the “Food Chains” screening and the many presentations of the previous days, dozens of community members, students, professors, local business owners turned out – and were even joined by several members of Nashville Fair Food, who couldn't be kept away when they heard CIW would be visiting their neighbor state.
Rain-soaked but exuberant, North Carolinians and the CIW drove home the same message NC has been sending to Publix since the grocer's first forays into the state: as Publix seeks to expand their consumer base in North Carolina communities, consumers are demanding that the supermarket also expand their commitment to human rights.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Ashevillians have made this resolute call to Publix. In fact, even before the Asheville Publix store opened this last spring, scores of North Carolinians protested alongside farmworkers at the construction site during CIW’s 2014 Now is the Time Tour, then picketed at the opening in May, and have made their message known in the local press time and time again.
This time around, while the picket started up, a delegation led by CIW's Lupe Gonzalo sought to enter the store (and of course, were denied entry) to deliver the letter signed by community members, inviting Publix once again to become part of the proven solution to farmworker poverty and powerlessness. After Lupe urged the manager to pass the community's letter onto his higher-ups, a member of Beth Israel spoke proudly of the rich history of Jewish support in the Campaign for Fair Food. She shared that as a longtime Asheville resident and person of faith, Publix’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program — already supported by Publix's Asheville competitor up the road, Walmart — is unconscionable, and she looks forward to the day soon where she and her congregation can celebrate Publix coming to the table with the CIW. A student from Warren Wilson closed the delegation, sharing her dismay upon learning about Publix’s position and resolve to continue organizing with her community to continue to amplify this call.
The CIW wrapped up the picket by sharing with the participants the call for a National Day of Action on Nov. 21. As Lupe informed the crowd, this is the weekend before Thanksgiving, and Publix will surely be promoting its family-friendly image and charity efforts, and yet will continue to refuse to respect the farmworkers who make the food on their shelves — and profits in their pockets — possible.
The Truth Tour crew took off with promises to return to Asheville soon – made to both the dozens of students, young people and community members who have shown their unwavering support for the Campaign and to the local Publix management as well – and with much excitement for what is waiting ahead in the Triangle Area and Charlotte!
Follow along as the CIW and SFA continue spreading truth and consciousness to North Carolina communities about Publix's staunch refusal to take part in the changes that are transforming the lives of tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families in Florida and beyond – and stay tuned for the final Truth Tour report next week!