Problems with Publix: why we’re boycotting

by Pierce Butler

A spontaneous boycott of Publix supermarkets has begun, sparked by several missteps linked to the grocery chain:

• A week after Publix donated $100,000 to the political action committee “Friends of Ron DeSantis,” the governor — who has taken major pandemic decision-making away from local health officials and into his own office — declared that Publix would be the only Covid-19 vaccine distribution venue for all of Palm Beach County (where the chain concentrates its stores in affluent, mostly-white neighborhoods).

• Miami Beach Publix deli worker Gerardo Gutierrez, 70, died from Covid-19 in April, after a co-worker tested positive for the coronavirus – but the company prohibited employees from wearing face masks and gloves, according to a lawsuit filed in November by the Gutierrez family.

• Julie Jenkins Fancelli, billionaire daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins, catalyzed rage against the chain by donating $300,000 for the Jan. 6 Trump rally, which led to the deadly riot attempting to overturn last year’s election by storming the national Capitol. She had previously given over $2,000,000 to Trump’s PACs, campaign, and the Republican party. Publix, which has 831 stores in Florida and over 400 elsewhere in the southeast, quickly released a statement that Fancelli does not work or speak for the corporation, but that did little to slow the #BoycottPublix movement springing up across the state. Publix was also found to have donated $127,000 in 2020 to 43 members of the Republican caucus that voted to overturn the election.

• The company has also faced negative reactions from previous political actions, including donating hundreds of thousands to Adam Putnam’s short-lived 2018 gubernatorial campaign after the Republican then-Agriculture Commissioner and self-proclaimed “proud NRA sellout” failed to conduct gun-permit background checks, even after the Parkland shooting massacre; and for refusing to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Fair Food Program” to raise tomato prices by one cent per pound to lift farmworkers’ pay, even while 90 percent of growers and other corporate food buyers, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Trader Joe’s, joined in.

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