Tomato pickers march along U.S. 41 demanding fair wages - WFLA News Channel 8

Tomato pickers march along U.S. 41 demanding fair wages

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Tomato pickers march along U.S. 41 in Sarasota today, demanding fair wages. Tomato pickers march along U.S. 41 in Sarasota today, demanding fair wages.
SARASOTA COUNTY, FL -

A large group of Florida tomato pickers and activists marched north along Tamiami Trail in Sarasota to raise awareness for fair wages.  Over the next week, you may see the group as you're driving along the roadways.

They're on a 200 mile march from Fort Myers to Lakeland, and are walking in the middle of a highway to get their message across.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a group of Florida tomato pickers and activists. They're raising awareness for the Fair Food program.  The program is a partnership between tomato pickers and big corporations, ensuring fair wages and good treatment of the laborers.

These workers are making noise, pushing for better wages, but their biggest opponent is a local supermarket giant.

Publix is not a member of this program, and for these workers, that's a problem. So they're marching 200 miles, from Fort Myers to Publix headquarters in Lakeland in hopes that the company will listen.

Publix says it stands for fair rights for tomato pickers, but it doesn't want to get involved in what it calls a "labor dispute."

The grocery giant said in a statement, "We believe all parties would be better served if appropriate wages were paid by growers to their workers, and we were charged accordingly."

Oscar Otzoy is a tomato picker.  He says,"We're marching so Publix can join the program and improve conditions and improve pay."

Otzoy says historically tomato pickers have been victims of low wages and sexual harassment. He believes under this program, an extra penny per pound of tomatoes will ensure fair treatment.  He also says, "This is an opportunity for Publix to be part of the solution that will serve as a model to other supermarkets around the country."

These workers believe Publix can take a stand for them, so they're making noise all the way to their doorstep, hoping the company will listen.

The workers will be passing through Tampa on Wednesday, and they plan to arrive in Lakeland on Sunday, March 17th.

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