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FARMWORKERS, ALLIES DEMAND FAIR FOOD FROM BURGER KING WITH 9-MILE MARCH THROUGH MIAMI AND HUGE RALLY AT CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS
Immokalee, FL - Over 100 members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers -- recipient of the 2007 Anti-Slavery International Award -- will be joined by hundreds of allies and concerned consumers from across the country for a 9-mile march on Burger King’s corporate headquarters in Miami tomorrow, Friday, November 30th. The workers are demanding that Burger King follow in the steps of Yum Brands and McDonald´s by paying a premium for its tomatoes to directly improve workers' sub-poverty wages and work with the CIW to address the labor abuses endemic to Florida agriculture.
The march will begin at the offices of Goldman Sachs, one of three multi-billion dollar private equity firms that own a substantial share of Burger King stock and sit on its board, and will culminate in a major rally in front of Burger King´s corporate headquarters.
Press reports revealed last week that Burger King has teamed with a Florida tomato agribusiness lobby in an effort to undermine the CIW’s landmark accords with Yum Brands and McDonald’s. Editorial pages across the state and country have unanimously condemned the move. A Palm Beach Post editorial on Wednesday described Burger King´s collaboration with the growers' lobby "another example of the self-serving indifference that has fostered abuse of farmworkers for decades," concluding that "at Burger King, consumers are buying into intimidation and the continued exploitation of cheap labor." Today’s New York Times also carried a hard-hitting op/ed by Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, blasting Burger King for its position and looking to the private equity firms behind the fast-food giant for a solution.
CIW spokesperson Lucas Benitez said, "In the wake of our agreements with Yum Brands and McDonald's, we have arrived on the threshold of a more modern, more humane agricultural industry in Florida. Yet rather than join us on that path toward further progress, Burger King has allied itself with tomato industry representatives to push us back, back toward the same abuse and exploitation we have experienced for decades."
Benitez continued, "But we will not be turned back. We will not give up the gains we have already won, and we will continue forward until all of Florida's farmworkers can enjoy a fair wage and humane conditions in this state's fields."
Background: Florida’s farmworkers – including the workers who pick tomatoes for fast-food giants like Burger King -- face sweatshop conditions every day in the fields, including: sub-poverty wages (tomato pickers earn roughly $10,000/year, according to the USDOL); no raise in nearly 30 years (pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate today as in 1980 - at the going rate, workers must pick more than 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day); and the denial of fundamental labor rights (no right to overtime pay nor right to organize).
In the most extreme cases, workers face actual conditions of modern-day slavery. The CIW has helped Federal Civil Rights officials to prosecute five slavery operations -- involving over 1,000 workers -- in Florida's fields since 1997.
For more information on the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food go to www.ciw-online.org