I don’t know how I managed to miss this one! If there’s one thing that rings true about me, it’s that I have no problem whatsoever boycotting fast food chains for the various crap they try to pull.
Florida farm workers who harvest tomatoes for the Burger King system will see improved wages and working conditions following an historic agreement announced yesterday between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the fast food giant. The agreement follows a more than year-long drive that mobilized union members, students, religious and community activists and lawmakers in marches, rallies, congressional hearings and petition drives demanding justice for the workers.
Says CIW organizer Lucas Benitez: “The events of the past months have been trying. But we are prepared to move forward, together now with Burger King, toward a future of full respect for the human rights of workers in the Florida tomato fields. Today we are one step closer to building a world where we, as farm workers, can enjoy a fair wage and humane working conditions in exchange for the hard and essential work we do everyday.”
Burger King has agreed to pay an additional net penny per pound for Florida tomatoes to increase wages for the Florida farm workers who harvest tomatoes. Burger King also joins other fast-food industry leaders and the CIW in calling for an industry-wide net penny per pound surcharge to increase wages for Florida tomato harvesters.
Together, CIW and Burger King have also established zero tolerance guidelines for certain unlawful activities that require immediate termination of any grower from the Burger King supply chain. The agreement also provides for farm worker participation in the monitoring of growers’ compliance with the company’s vendor code of conduct.
In April 2007, McDonald’s signed an agreement with CIW after a two-year battle. That deal followed an earlier agreement with Yum! Brands—parent company of Taco Bell and fast food chains. But Burger King refused to go along and joined the Florida tomato industry in a bitter campaign against the CIW.
Now, says Burger King CEO John Chidsey, “We are pleased to now be working together with the CIW to further the common goal of improving Florida tomato farm workers’ wages, working conditions and lives. The CIW has been at the forefront of efforts to improve farm labor conditions, exposing abuses and driving socially responsible purchasing and work practices in the Florida tomato fields. We apologize for any negative statements about the CIW or its motives previously attributed to BKC [Burger King] or its employees and now realize that those statements were wrong. Today we turn a new page in our relationship and begin a new chapter of real progress for Florida farm workers.”
Chidsey also says all Florida tomato harvesters are in need of better wages and decent working conditions and growers should work with the CIW, “for industry-wide, socially responsible change.”
Says CIW’s Benitez, “This agreement should send a strong message to the rest of the restaurant and supermarket industry: Now is the time to join Yum! Brands, McDonalds, and Burger King in righting the wrongs that have been allowed to linger in Florida’s fields for far too long.”
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill) whose spearheaded April hearings into the conditions in Florida’s tomato fields says the agreement is, “a major step forward in improving the wages and working conditions of the Immokalee workers. I call on other purchasers of the region’s tomatoes and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to join Burger King and do the right thing for these workers.”