Coalition of Immokalee Workers launching march to Publix headquarters

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers protest in September 2012 in front of Mercato and Chipotle, asking the food chain to pay more for farmworkers to harvest tomatoes in September. Chipotle has now signed on to do just that.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers protest in September 2012 in front of Mercato and Chipotle, asking the food chain to pay more for farmworkers to harvest tomatoes in September. Chipotle has now signed on to do just that.

FORT MYERS _ More than 100 farmworkers and their allies are expected to rally today in a Fort Myers park, then walk the city’s streets to launch a two-week march to Lakeland.

The 200-mile trek to Central Florida, called “March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food,” is promoted by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and ends up at the corporate headquarters for Publix supermarkets.

Organizers urged interested citizens to come to Terry Park on Palm Beach Boulevard at 1 p.m. today for a rally, then join in a 3-mile march to a Publix on McGregor Boulevard, to Centennial Park and north across a bridge over the Caloosahatchee River into North Fort Myers.

From there, the march heads up U.S. 41 to Tampa, then east toward Lakeland.

“We are going to take our case directly to the consumers through our presence in the streets, through nightly meetings with supporters in churches, schools and community halls along the way, and through our voices in the media,” Coalition representative Oscar Otzoy said in a statement. “We will not rest until Publix realizes that the 21st century supermarket cannot afford to turn its back on human rights.”

On its website and in prior interviews, Publix officials have described the matter as a labor dispute between growers and farm workers, not the supermarket chain.

“We believe all parties would be better served if appropriate wages were paid by growers to their workers, and we were charged accordingly,” the company statement says.

“We expect our suppliers to follow the laws established to protect and promote a safe and healthful workplace for their employees,” the statement says.

__ Visit naplesnews.com Monday for a report on the Coalition's march.

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