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Publix Targeted Over Farmworker Tomato Pay

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TAMPA (CBSMiami.com) – When you visit your neighborhood Publix store to pick up your groceries, you’re probably more concerned about what you pay than what Publix pays for the produce it sells you.

Farmworkers and their advocates  say it’s not enough, and are protesting Saturday to get Publix to back better pay for farmworkers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers group is wrapping up a five-city national tour Saturday with rallies calling for Publix to pay workers a penny more per pound for tomatoes.  Saturday’s protests will be held in the Tampa area

Publix does not pay the farmworkers directly for tomatoes, but advocacy groups have been targeting major users of farm products such as fast food restaurants and supermarkets in order to get them to to agree to pay growers and distributors more. That money would be given to farm workers.

Lakeland-based Publix, Florida’s largest supermarket chain with 1,032 stores in the southeast, has so far refused to take part.

Spokeswoman Shannon Patten, in an e-mail to the News-Press of Fort Myers, said the coalition should instead build the increase into the price it charges to the industry.

Advocates have already been successful in getting some businesses to agree to help the farm workers. After years of targeting Miami-based Burger King, a major user of tomatoes, the coalition and the company reached agreement in 2008 to pay the extra penny.

Around 30,000 workers harvest Florida’s $619 million annual tomato crop.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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