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At Publix in Ballantyne, labor activists protest pay and conditions at tomato farms

By Ely Portillo
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/06/16/59/QxYGz.Em.138.jpeg|245
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Pedro Lopez joins other protesters in front of Publix at Ballantyne on Thursday morning.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/06/17/00/H3mPX.Em.138.jpeg|316
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Carmen Mason was among the protesters in front of the Publix at Ballantyne on Thursday morning.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/06/16/59/1sDBdm.Em.138.jpeg|205
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Protesters in front of the Publix at Ballantyne on Thursday morning called for higher wages for farm workers, especially in tomato fields.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/06/16/59/1bvfFP.Em.138.jpeg|215
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Protesters in front of the Publix at Ballantyne on Thursday morning demanded better treatment for tomato field workers. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers says the giant food retailer should use its influence to require better pay and conditions for workers.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/06/16/59/1tjNoW.Em.138.jpeg|274
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Lily Pedraza and her son Kevin Perez, 3, right, were among protesters in front of Publix at Ballantyne Thursday morning.

Several dozen workers and labor organizers protested outside Publix’s new store in Ballantyne on Thursday, demanding the grocer join a program designed to improve pay and conditions for tomato farm workers in Florida.

The workers are part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group that has been pressuring Publix for years. The group has a dozen other retailers and food companies signed on to its Fair Food Program, which provides higher pay and stricter safety conditions for farm workers.

Florida-based Publix has said that the issue is a labor dispute between tomato growers and their workers and that the company doesn’t want to intervene.

The coalition is on a 10-day tour of 10 cities designed to increase pressure on Publix, which is expanding aggressively into the Charlotte region. Ely Portillo

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