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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

A petition is urging Publix to raise wages for workers

Front of a Publix
Carl Lisciandrello
WUSF Public Media
The grocery chain has nearly 1,300 stores in seven states throughout the Southeast.

The online campaign, which started two months ago, has so far garnered about 7,350 signatures.

A Publix employee has started a petition asking the Lakeland-based company to raise the pay of its workers to help employees keep up with inflation.

Leland Presley of Helena, Alabama has worked as a cake decorator at Publix for 18 years.

"I don't want to leave my job; I enjoy what I do," Presley said. "But we see some things that could be better for associates, and happy workers make for a happy work environment, so I think it’s good for everyone."

The petition is asking Publix for a 10% annual raise. The Lakeland-based grocery chain has seen an increase in profits during the pandemic.

The campaign, on the platform coworker.org, has also garnered hundreds of comments from Publix associates who say they're having a hard time making ends meet.

"And I'm hoping that once the petition is delivered to our corporate office, that they will read those comments and take it to heart that it's coming from your associates, the people who show up and work for you every day," Presley said.

According to Presley, longtime Publix associates reach a certain pay ceiling when it comes to being able to earn more money.

This isn’t the first time the company's employees have used an online campaign to call for change. In the past, they’ve run petitions to change the dress code to allow beards and for access to more paid family leave.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.