Two years later, New Times is still getting hate mail for telling Floridians in 2016 to "stop loving Publix." You all yelled at us then and called us "carpetbaggers" for pointing out that the beloved supermarket chain has abysmal politics. But now, after the Tampa Bay Times detailed the gobs of cash the company is throwing at NRA-loving gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, an official #BoycottPublix movement is brewing, and, honestly, we're a little bitter. Now you all realize that Publix isn't the beloved, benevolent multi-billion-dollar corporation you thought it was?
Publix is now trying to fend off a swarm of horrible PR by insisting it somehow supports Putnam but not the NRA. Frankly, the chain should have faced this battle a long time ago. Farmworkers, for example, have routinely described Publix as indifferent to the dreadful conditions they face while picking produce. LGBTQ workers have accused the company repeatedly, over multiple years, of discrimination and harassment. m
Here's a primer on why Putnam isn't the only reason to boycott Publix:
1. Publix refuses to join a program guaranteeing farmworkers better wages and protections from sexual harassment. If you haven't seen the 2014 documentary Food Chains, stop reading this article and go watch it. The film chronicles the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers, a labor-rights group in Southwest Florida that formed to protect the rights of people picking produce in the Sunshine State. Tomato and other produce pickers in Florida live in squalor because major grocery chains including Publix demand that produce be sold as cheaply as possible. Many live crammed into trailers with other workers, wake up before dawn, work impossibly long shifts in the sun, and rarely, if ever, see their families.
To help end this system, the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers created the Fair Food Program. Major, multinational corporations, including Walmart and Whole Foods, have joined and pledged to pay workers a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked. Because 80 percent of farmworker women report sexual harassment or abuse, companies that join the Fair Food Program also agree to stop buying products from farms where abuse is reported.
2. Its supermarkets have been repeatedly accused of being hostile places for LGBTQ employees. Last January, the LGBTQ community became enraged at the chain after HIV-positive activist Josh Robbins reported that Publix refused to cover "pre-exposure prophylaxis" (PrEP) drugs that prevent HIV-negative people from contracting the virus. Because HIV is more prevalent among gay men, many doctors encourage them to take the drug to prevent transmission. It turns out Publix had no actual reason for refusing to cover the drugs — it simply didn't want to, and reversed its decision after LGBTQ activists became rightfully upset.
Most people suspect that Publix's reasoning was entirely political and that the chain simply didn't want to "subsidize" safe, potentially gay sex. The chain has faced anti-LGBTQ accusations for years: Numerous employees have recounted allegations of unwelcoming workplaces to New Times since 2014. Gay men have been denied bereavement pay to grieve for dead loved ones. Gay men have been awarded money for being needlessly fired. The company says it's "improving" its stance on LGBTQ issues, but as the PrEP saga showed, it's still far behind the times.
4. Publix has had a hand in fighting local minimum-wage increases and environmental protections. Publix has, in the past, exerted major influence over the Florida Retail Federation, a pro-corporate, right-wing trade group that really doesn't like when workers in the state ask for things such as fair wages and bargaining rights. After the City of Miami Beach tried to raise its minimum wage to an eventual $13.31 per hour in 2016, the Retail Federation sued. At the time, the federation's five-member board of directors included a Publix executive.
The Publix-backed Federation also sued the city of Coral Gables after the town tried to ban the use of plastic bags in a bid to help clean up the environment. (For what it's worth, Publix also apparently has a pretty big food-waste problem, too.)
Bet that next Pub sub might taste a little different from now on. [Top Picture: Florida today]
BY Jerry Iannelli who is Miami New Times' daily-news reporter. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
But one of Putnam's big donors has spent the last week gravely regretting their financial support: Publix faced a "die-in" from Parkland survivors, led by David Hogg, over the $650,000 the grocery chain has given Putnam over the last three years. Gun-control advocates demanded Floridians boycott Publix until the company changes its ways — and, in response, Publix agreed to suspend its political donations and reevaluate where its money goes.
For gun-control advocates, that's a victory (though it's unlikely Publix will stop donating political cash overall), but there are a whole bunch of other Florida corporations and executives still propping up the "proud NRA sellout."
Those companies have so far evaded criticism for their donations — here are the most prominent few:
1. Florida Power & Light. FPL, the company that spent millions trying to con Floridians into giving up their solar-power rights in 2016, runs a nuclear plant in Homestead that polluted Miami's drinking water supply and remains a massive carbon polluter contributing to climate change. According to the Miami Herald, FPL had already given Putnam's "Florida Grown" political-action committee a whopping $587,060 as of March 2017.
2. Big Sugar. U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals are the only companies that Florida environmentalists hate more than utility firms. Environmentalists blame Big Sugar for polluting the Everglades and the state's drinking-water supply. According to a Treasure Cost Palmanalysis from last month, U.S. Sugar has given Putnam's PAC $340,000 since 2017, while Florida Crystals has kicked in $65,000.
3. Walt Disney World. Much like Publix, Disney is another beloved Florida corporation with absolutely garbage politics. The company was the subject of a huge labor protest earlier this year, which somehow didn't get much national press attention. According to Florida Division of Elections, the Big Mouse has pumped $510,000 into Putnam's PAC since 2017. 4. Comcast and AT&T. According to state records, Comcast dumped $75,000 into the Florida Grown PAC in the last 12 months. AT&T pitched in $25,000, too. If you don't already despise these companies, then — congrats! You must be the CEO of Comcast yourself. Your life sounds cool. Can we have $75,000, too?