Farm workers and their supporters are planning to protest two major companies Saturday - at their locations in Bonita Springs - over their refusal to take part in a program that fights sexual harassment. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is demanding that Wendy's and Publix participate in the Fair Food Program, which the CIW says is working to end sexual harassment and violence at Florida farms.
"Sexual harassment and assault are endemic to the agricultural industry," said the CIW's Oscar Oztoy.
He said that since 2011, when the Fair Food Program began monitoring sexual misconduct at farms in the U.S., the CIW has resolved over two thousand sexual harassment complaints.
"And though cases continue to happen, what is different under the Fair Food Program is that the workers have the opportunity to speak out," Oztoy said.
Fourteen major food retailers - including McDonald's, Burger King and Wal-Mart - pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes as part of the Fair Food Program. That money pays a third-party monitoring group to help farm workers report any sexual harassment they might experience.
But Wendy's and Publix do not participate in the program. The CIW and other supporters are planning a protest march Saturday at 11 a.m., beginning at the Wendy's on Tamiami Trail in Bonita Springs to the Publix on Bonita Beach Road.
"Their peers are taking responsibility, and it's time for Wendy's and Publix to do the right thing and come to the table of dialogue," Oztoy said.
A statement from Publix reads, in part: "We believe it is the responsibility of our suppliers - including Florida farmers - to manage their own workforce, including paying wages and providing work conditions that comply with federal and state laws."
Wendy's board chairman has commented to media that he believes the CIW is "trying to exploit the positive momentum that has been generated by and for women in the #MeToo and Time's Up movement to advance their interests."