May 23, 2008
UPDATE 5/29: Editorial Support Strong for New CIW/BK Agreement!...
See all the latest media here!
- Video excerpts from the press conference
- Exclusive photo report from the press conference
- Click here for the joint press release
- Editorial: "What's with the farmers," Palm Beach Post, 5/28/08
- Editorial: "News reporting advanced justice," Ft. Myers News-Press, 5/28/08
- Editorial: "Coalition of Immokalee Workers," Palm Beach Post, 6/1/08
- Editorial: "At last Burger King does the right thing," St. Petersburg Times, 6/2/08
- "Farmworkers get a Whopper of a win," Creative Loafing (Tampa Bay, FL), 6/1/08
More media coverage of the agreement:
- New York Times, "Burger King Grants Raise to Pickers," 5/24/08
- The Nation, "Sweet Victory: Coalition of Immokalee Workers Wins," 5/23/08
- Wall Street Journal, "Burger King Ends Dispute with Farmworkers Group," 5/24/08
- Ft. Myers News-Press, "Farmworkers celebrate deal with Burger King," 5/24/08
Press release highlights:
- BK CEO John Chidsey: "We are pleased to now be working together with the CIW to further the common goal of improving Florida tomato farmworkers' 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 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 farmworkers."
- CIW's 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 farmworkers, can enjoy a fair wage and humane working conditions in exchange for the hard and essential work we do everyday. We are not there yet, but we are getting there, and 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."
- US Senator Bernie Sanders: "I have been to Immokalee and seen first-hand the conditions for farm workers there, perhaps the most exploited workers in America. I am very pleased that Burger King has agreed to help the tomato pickers who have worked for too long for too little. I know that this has been a long and hard road for Burger King, and I believe the American people will appreciate what they are doing."
- US Senator Dick Durbin: "I applaud Burger King for announcing today that it will be providing an extra penny per pound to the tomato pickers of Immokalee, Florida and establishing a zero-tolerance policy for worker abuses in the region. Today's announcement 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.
Agreement details: The agreement extends Fair Food principles to the world's second-largest hamburger chain. Highlights include:
- BK agrees to pay an additional net penny per pound to the Florida farm workers who harvest its tomatoes. To encourage grower participation in this increased wage program, BK will also pay incremental payroll taxes and administrative costs incurred by the growers as a result of their farmworkers' increased wages, or a total of 1.5 cents per pound of tomatoes.
- BK 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, BK and the CIW have also established zero tolerance guidelines for certain unlawful activities that require immediate termination of any grower from the Burger King supply chain. The BK/CIW collaboration additionally provides for farmworker participation in the monitoring of growers' compliance with the company's vendor code of conduct.
May 14, 2008BK ANNOUNCES RESULTS OF INTERNAL INVESTIGATION; CALLS CONTINUE FOR INDEPENDENT INQUIRY
As news broke of Burger King's decision to fire two highly-placed executives for their roles in the dual scandals that have rocked the fast-food giant in the past several weeks, calls continued for an independent inquiry aimed at finding out, "how far up the corporate ladder this scheme went."
In an Associated Press article entitled, "Burger King fires 2 over executive's secret blog criticizing farm worker's group," Burger King also announced that it would discontinue its use of Diplomatic Tactical Services, "a private investigation firm whose president allegedly posed as a student activist to infiltrate the farmworker group and its supporters."
The AP article continued, "Coalition co-founder Lucas Benitez said in a statement the group welcomed Burger King's actions but said more needed to be done 'to clear the path toward a sincere partnership for more humane conditions in Burger King's tomato supply chain.'"
Others apparently agreed. Senator Bernie Sanders (shown speaking on the right at a March press conference announcing the CIW's national petition campaign in Washington), who has taken a strong interest in the fast-developing campaign since his visit to Immokalee this past January, said in a statement reported in today's Ft. Myers News-Press:
"A major corporation like Burger King should not have a vice president posting inflammatory anti-worker messages on the Web, nor should it be hiring spies to infiltrate non-violent, pro-worker organizations. That is outrageous.
Sanders also called for further investigation.
"... we should make sure that we find out how high up the corporate ladder this scheme went."
Is this the end of the story?... A steady drumbeat of revelations of wrongdoing over the past several weeks (scroll down for more on those revelations) appears to have led directly to the highest levels of the world's second-largest burger chain. Whether Burger King's announcement will be sufficient to control the damage from those revelations -- or whether other investigations will continue until there is no longer any doubt that all those responsible for the malfeasance are identified -- is still to be determined.
One thing, however, is clear. Burger King's campaign of resistance to more humane conditions in Florida's tomato fields -- its refusal to pay a fairer price for tomatoes so that workers may earn a fairer wage, its decision to join forces with the most conservative elements of the Florida tomato industry to deny the existence of a human rights crisis in the fields today, and its efforts to undermine the integrity of the farmworker community organization fighting to address that crisis -- must now end.
At long last, Burger King must join Yum Brands and McDonald's in support of the principles of Fair Food. That is, in the words of Senator Dick Durbin from the same Ft. Myers News-Press article, "the only way to end this honorably for BK."
May 12, 2008
PRESSURE GROWS ON BK AND ITS CEO FOR ACTION IN RESPONSE TO GROWING SCANDAL
Continuing coverage into the widening Burger King scandal has uncovered public statements by BK CEO John Chidsey similar to those that landed BK vice president Steven Grover in hot water when he was discovered to have been behind a series of anonymous internet attacks on the CIW. Here's some of the latest coverage:
- "Invasions of Privacy," the Nation, 5/11/08
- "Burger King locked in dispute with farmworkers," National Public Radio, 5/8/08 (with audio)
- "Activists out Burger King dirty tricks operation," the Independent, 5/9/08 (UK)
Here's an excerpt from the Nation article:
"... As recently as October, Chidsey delivered a lecture at his alma mater, Davidson College, and made statements almost identical to the ones now linked to Grover. Chidsey said of dealing with CIW, 'The union said the money has to go in the union coffers and "we'll decide what's better for the workers."'Two weeks prior to this statement the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – which had been closely involved in negotiations for the wage increase – had written Burger King to request that it stop making these false statements to the press. The Carter Center and Yum Brands issued similar statements defending CIW. Chidsey also mocked the very notion of farmworker poverty (which has even been documented by the Bush Administration's Department of Labor), saying, 'The facts on the tomatoes are very straightforward…. The average tomato picker in the state of Florida makes $12.56 an hour. If you're really good, you can make $20 bucks an hour…. They already make more than we pay our workers.' All of this is patently false.
But here's where Burger King's credibility takes another huge hit. According to Wilson, Grover's comments 'do not reflect the opinion of the company' and led to Burger King 'conducting our investigation and [we] will take appropriate action once we have a full understanding of the facts.' Yet Chidsey's comments are on the record and he's the man at the helm of the corporation. Does that mean the CEO's comments are not the opinion of the company he leads? And, if that's the case, doesn't Chidsey at the very least owe a public apology that sets the record straight about CIW and farmworker poverty? Further, why should investigations or disciplinary action be taken against Grover or any other Burger King employees but not the CEO?..." (italics added) read the article in its entirety here
The Nation story also contains calls by Senators Durbin, Kennedy, and Sanders for Burger King to immediately support the principles for farm labor reform established in the Taco Bell and McDonald's agreements.
Meanwhile, Burger King's internal investigation continues...
May 7, 2008
(New York Times illustration)
With a powerful new op/ed published in today's New York Times, entitled "Burger With a Side of Spies," award-winning investigative author Eric Schlosser takes the spreading "spygate" scandal to a new level.
Schlosser reports that Burger King executives not only confirmed to him that the fast-food giant hired the private security firm "Diplomatic Tactical Services" to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), but that Burger King CEO John Chidsey (right) knew about the company's use of the firm, whose owner, Cara Schaffer, was denied a private investigator's license by the state of Florida."Diplomatic Tactical Services" to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), but that Burger King CEO John Chidsey (right) knew about the company's use of the firm, whose owner, Cara Schaffer, was denied a private investigator's license by the state of Florida.
Here are some highlights from the explosive op/ed (images below are from the DTS website):
- "In an interview, a Burger King executive told me that the company had worked with Diplomatic Tactical Services for years on “security-related matters” and had used it to obtain information about the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s plans."
- "Ms. Schaffer is the 25-year-old owner of a private security firm. Her company, Diplomatic Tactical Services, seems like the kind of security firm you’d find in one of Carl Hiaasen’s crime thrillers. Last year Ms. Schaffer was denied a private investigator’s license; she had failed to supply the Florida licensing division with proof of 'lawfully gained, verifiable experience or training.'”
- "Even more unsettling, one of her former subcontractors, Guillermo Zarabozo, is now facing murder charges in United States District Court in Miami for his role in allegedly executing four crew members of a charter fishing boat, then dumping their bodies at sea."
- "Burger King’s use of an unlicensed private investigator to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance may have been illegal under Florida law."
- "John Chidsey, the chief executive of Burger King, knew about the use of Diplomatic Tactical Services."
Schlosser concludes his article by calling for Congressional hearings into corporate espionage, adding, "Mr. Chidsey should get a chance to raise his right hand and tell members of Congress why he thinks this sort of behavior is acceptable."
What does all this mean?... Three weeks ago, a report in the Ft. Myers News-Press broke the story of a multi-faceted "dirty tricks" campaign aimed at:
- Discrediting the CIW through an anonymous, bogus blogger campaign of emails and internet postings questioning the CIW's integrity and calling the Immokalee farmworkers' organization the "lowest form of life" and "bloodsuckers," among other things. That smear campaign has since been tied to Burger King Vice President Steven Grover (above right, "Burger King VP puts self on grill; Daughter says dad wrote anti-coalition postings," 4/28/08)
- Infiltrating the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a key CIW ally in the Campaign for Fair Food. The use of Diplomatic Tactical Services to infiltrate and spy on the SFA has now been tied directly to Burger King, with knowledge of the use of DTS being linked to BK CEO John Chidsey ("Burger With a Side of Spies," 5/7/08).
Over the course of the past three weeks, investigative reporters have followed the leads revealed in the original News-Press story in an effort to determine to what degree Burger King executives participated in the campaign against the CIW. Those efforts have succeeded in connecting the dots, and today the image of a multi-billion dollar corporation determined to spy on students and farmworkers, and defame the farmworkers' organization, has come into sharp focus.
The question remains, however: Just how much is there still to uncover in this whole tawdry affair? Given how outrageous the facts are to this point, it is almost impossible to believe that there is not more to this story.
Internal investigation... or public hearing? Yesterday, in a separate article, the News-Press reported that Burger King has promised to undertake "an internal investigation, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken" in response to the news of BK's Vice President Grover's involvement in the internet attacks against the CIW ("Burger King investigates VP's online postings," 5/6/08).
But, in light of the latest revelations in today's New York Times, how can an internal investigation have any credibility at all?
Clearly, a corporation implicated in this sort of unethical behavior cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Exhibit A: In announcing the coming investigation into Grover's internet attacks on the CIW, Burger King declared that "senior management of the company had no knowledge of Grover's postings." But isn't that the very question that any independent investigation would seek to answer? Furthermore, Steve Grover is himself senior management, so the real question becomes "Did other senior management have knowledge of Grover's actions?" Now, with BK CEO John Chidsey implicated in the spying scandal, any internal investigation is even less likely to get to the bottom of this ever-widening scandal.
Instead, as the stain of this dirty tricks campaign continues to spread, it is now clear that these allegations must be thoroughly investigated. An independent inquiry, such as the Congressional hearings suggested by Eric Schlosser in today's New York Times op/ed, is the right way to proceed.
The public has a right to know what corporations do to their critics. Because, ultimately, the public -- not Burger King -- will be the the judge.
April 30, 2008
BK'S DIRTY LAUNDRY
(photo by Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press)
Click here for the CIW report with exclusive photos from Monday's exciting protest!
Latest editorials and reports on the growing controversy:
- "Raw deal by BK," editorial, Ft. Myers News-Press, 4/30/08
- "Burger King Burglarly," editorial, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 4/29/08
- "Burger King VP accused of flaming pressure group," vnunet.com, UK, 4/29/08
- "BK draws more heat from tomato pickers group," Nation's Restaurant News, 4/28/08
- "Beef with Burger King," CNBC video, 4/30/08
UPDATE: Just how high does widening scandal go? Fast-food giant mum... As 200 farmworkers and their allies gathered at Burger King's headquarters this past Monday to deliver 84,952 signatures from the nationwide Petition Campaign to End Slavery and Sweatshops in the Fields, news broke of BK Vice President Steven Grover's (photo on left, taken during a previous CIW protest) personal involvement in a widening dirty tricks scandal.
On the morning of the petition delivery ceremony, the Ft. Myers News Press ran a story with evidence that Mr. Grover was directly responsible for a number of harsh and libelous internet postings attacking the CIW and that he used, among other assumed identities, his daughter's online ID to do so.
Gerardo Reyes of the CIW (shown below addressing the crowd at Monday's petition delivery ceremony) was quoted in the article, pressing Burger King to come clean as to just how high up the company's chain of command this scandal reaches:
"This is truly disturbing," said coalition member Gerardo Reyes. "It's one thing to imagine that there's some kind of anonymous Internet stalker out there obsessively tracking every story about the CIW, posting these vicious lies about us and calling us things like 'the lowest form of life' and 'blood suckers,'" Reyes said. "I mean, we're a farmworker community fighting slavery and trying to get a fair wage for the work we do."
The bigger question, Reyes said, is this: "When you realize the person posting those things is actually Burger King's vice president in charge of the ethical operation of the company's supply chain, it really makes you wonder just how high up does this whole thing go? Does Burger King, as a company, approve of this sort of behavior? If not, we'd expect to see some changes now that this has come to light."
Thus far, Burger King has done nothing in response to the latest revelations but claim that the postings attributed to Mr. Grover "do not reflect its official policy."
But as Gerardo said in his speech at the delivery ceremony, "words are not enough... if their position is different (from that of Mr. Grover), they must clarify that today, and not with words, but with concrete actions."
Words are not enough precisely because, until just a few months ago, much of what Mr. Grover has been accused of saying behind false identities on the internet he said as an official spokesperson for Burger King to press and to the public. As the"At one point, Burger King Vice President Stephen Grover told reporters he was concerned the coalition was pocketing the extra money. After several independent groups that verified the agreements dismissed the allegations, Burger King officials stopped repeating them."
If it was official policy then, how can we be sure that it is not still official, if not public, policy today?
No actions have been forthcoming, however. And as the fast-food giant continues to flounder, the embarrassing revelations are making news across the country. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC gave the scandal his own sardonic thumbs up (see the video here), awarding Mr. Grover the bronze medal in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for "anonymously trashing farmworkers and using his daughter's online ID to do so."
The blogosphere is also buzzing with the news, with the most-read political blog of them all, Daily Kos, covering the revelations in its "State of the Nation" section in a posting entitled, "Burger King VP exposed as troll."
The clock is ticking. It is time for Burger King to make a clear and unambiguous break from the counterproductive policy captured in Mr. Grover's vulgar postings and to move firmly behind the growing movement for social responsibility in the food industry. More and more consumers every day are watching.
- CIW report, with exclusive photos, from Monday's petition delivery at Burger King headquarters
- "Farm worker advocates to present Burger King with petitions," Yahoo
- Finance Associated Press 4/29/08
- "Burger King VP puts self on grill; Daughter says dad wrote anti-coalition postings" (scroll down) Ft. Myers News-Press 4/28/08...
- Click here to sign the petition online now
- Click here for more on this exciting campaign
April 20, 2008
Senate hearing, dirty tricks continue to make headlines, editorial pages... Need some motivation to get those last few hundred signatures on the petition in your community?
First, click here for a full report and exclusive photos from the historic Senate hearing.
Then, check out the opinion pieces and the NPR story below for a shot of righteous indignation to get your motor running:
- Read the Miami Herald op/ed penned by three US senators (Senators Dick Durbin, Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown), "We must treat farmworkers fairly," from 4/21 here
- Read the Bradenton Herald editorial, "Pickers merit penny," from 4/18 here
- Read the report and analysis of last week's hearing from The Nation from 4/17 here
- Read the Palm Beach Post editorial, "Slavery? Let's find out," from 4/20 here
- Read the St. Petersburg Times editorial "Farmworkers denied one cent," from 4/14 here
- Read Senator Bernie Sanders's op/ed, "The Harvest of Shame," Huffington Post, from 4/15 here
- Read the scorching editorial from the Ft. Myers News-Press on the dirty tricks campaign, "Burger King should wise up," 4/16
- Hear the National Public Radio story from 4/18 here
April 16, 2008CAUGHT RED HANDED! New article ties campaign of dirty tricks to Burger King...
Click here to listen to the Democracy Now radio report from 4/14/08 on this breaking story!
Read this scorching editorial from the Ft. Myers News-Press, "Burger King should wise up," 4/16/08, as well as this broader analysis from PR Watch of corporate espionage and the threat it poses to civil society, "A Bad Week for Corporate Spies," 4/14/08.
In a development sure to make waves in the growing Petition Campaign to End Slavery and Sweatshops in the Fields, a new article published in Sunday's Ft. Myers News Press details a concerted campaign to infiltrate the Student/Farmworker Alliance, the CIW's student and youth ally organization, by a corporate "security and investigative firm that advertises its ability to place 'operatives' in the ranks of target groups." The firm, Diplomatic Tactical Services, is out of Hollywood, Florida. The image above and the logo to the left are from the firm's website. Here's an excerpt from their site:
"Diplomatic Tactical Services Inc. Labor relations include:
Undercover Operations: Placing of an operative in the ranks is dangerous if not handled with the greatest care. We have properly trained operatives that can document illegal activity without creating liability."
The article also uncovers a widespread bogus blogger operation traced directly to Burger King headquarters. The fake blogger spread libelous, anonymous attacks on the CIW in readers forums and video comment sections across the internet. The attacks -- which stopped cold following inquiries to top BK executives about the anonymous blogger -- were remarkably similar to those that BK spokespeople had long ago employed openly before being obliged to retract them by the press (see "down the rabbit hole," 9/27/07). The article reports that the anonymous email address posting the comments can be traced directly back to Burger King corporation.
As this latest news breaks, the April 15th Senate hearing is just around the corner, and the petition campaign heads into the final stretch, with just two weeks to go before the delivery of signatures to BK headquarters on April 28th. Click here to sign the petition now.
Go to the petition site for more ideas and materials to bring the campaign to your community today!
April 14, 2008
US Senate holds hearing into slavery and sweatshop conditions in Florida's fields; Senators tell Florida tomato growers: "We are going to stay on this issue"!...
Click here for a full report and exclusive photos from the historic Senate hearing!
- See a great report and analysis of yesterday's hearing from The Nation by clicking here.
- See all the press reports from the day's events here.
- See a video from the hearing and testimony from all the witnesses here.
The hearing came as the national Petition Campaign to End Slavery and Sweatshops in the Fields enters its final stretch before the April 28th action at Burger King headquarters in Miami, where signatures from across the country will be delivered as part of a creative mass procession. Increasing scrutiny of farm labor conditions in Florida -- and revelations of corporate espionage and underhanded internet attacks on the CIW tied to fast-food giant Burger King (see the Campaign Update from 4/14 below for details) -- have lent a new urgency to the Campaign for Fair Food and the national petition drive. Click here to sign the petition now, then join us this April 28th in Miami!
February 28, 2008
The background of the above image is a detail from an 18th-century petition signed by the people of Manchester, England, calling for the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, from the archives of the British Parliament. Petition campaigns and consumer actions by British citizens helped hasten the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807. The CIW petition campaign honors the 200th anniversary of the US ban against the importation of slaves (1808), and echoes key strategies of the early abolitionist movement.
CIW LAUNCHES MAJOR NEW ACTION...
Join the petition campaign to end modern-day slavery and sweatshops in the fields!
Be a part of history... The CIW is launching a national petition drive calling on Burger King and other food industry leaders to work with the CIW to:
- improve the wages and working conditions of the men and women who harvest their tomatoes, and
- support an industry-wide effort to end human rights violations and modern-day slavery in all of Florida's fields.
The petition will also serve notice that those who sign are “prepared to stop patronizing Burger King now, and other food industry leaders in the future, should they fail to do so.”
We are calling on Fair Food activists across the country to collect signatures in their communities – in schools, churches, union halls, and community gatherings from Miami to Minneapolis, from New York to Los Angeles.
We will turn in the petitions in a creative mass procession at Burger King headquarters in Miami later this spring. Click here for all the details on how you can participate in this exciting new campaign!
February 25, 2008
CIW honored with national CCHD award!...
Award given annually by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops
Last night, at a ceremony in Washington, DC, the CIW was recognized for its work fighting farmworker poverty and modern-day slavery by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, with the 2008 Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award. Shown here are Gerardo Reyes of the CIW, right, and CCHD Director Ralph McCloud, with the award.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Its mission is to address the root causes of poverty in the United States through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and through transformative education.
The award, named in memory of the late Presentation Sister who served as executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and a member of the Catholic Bishops' Committee for CCHD, honors an individual or group who exemplifies a commitment to the development of people and the elimination of poverty. Recipients of this award have made significant contributions to human development and have offered heroic responses to the needs of the economically disadvantaged. The award was established 20 years ago in 1987 and was called the Development of People Award until 1997, when it was renamed in Sister Margaret Cafferty's honor after her death.
The CIW is immensely honored to receive this recognition from CCHD and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, both of whom have been steadfast allies in our work since the very beginnings of the CIW. We look forward to making CCHD and the USCCB proud of their choice and honoring the memory of Sister Margaret Cafferty with our continued struggle to end modern-day slavery and sweatshop conditions in the fields.
February 22, 2008
NEWS ROUND-UP!... Check out all the latest stories from the Campaign for Fair Food:
* Oxfam America - "Resistance to Wage Hike Fuels Resolve of Farm Worker Advocates" (2/21/08)
* QSR Magazine - "Tomato Troubles" (2/08)
* Raleigh News and Observer - "Tomato growers' fight far from over" (an update on the pesticide fines facing Whole Foods supplier Ag-Mart, 2/13/08)
* And another great new photo gallery, including this photo on the right of a picker counting bucket tokens after a long day of work -- Don't miss the new gallery, by Chris Maluszynski!
February 18, 2008
15,000 More signatures!...
United Students Against Sweatshops organized a rocking weekend of action in BK's backyard, including the delivery (left) of nearly 15,000 signatures on an American Rights at Work petition calling on BK to quit stalling and work with the CIW for real change!
February 7, 2008
Department of Labor announces intent to strip worker protections from H-2A guestworker program...
Move threatens to worsen already deplorable farmworker conditions...
The Bush administration's Department of Labor announced plans to gut regulations governing the nation's agricultural guestworker program today. The proposed changes threaten to significantly cut farmworker wages, lower the bar on farmworker housing, and diminish government oversight of what is already a troubled program.
The agricultural guestworker program has long been criticized by labor economists as an unnecessary and exploitative sop to the powerful agribusiness lobby, designed to provide farm employers with a steady supply of low-wage, docile labor. Decades of stagnant farm labor wages fly in the face of growers' perennial claims of labor shortages (the logic of labor markets dictates that shortages result in upward pressure on wages, as employers are obliged to increase wages to attract and retain workers). Yet despite the lack of any substantive evidence of labor shortages, the growers' lobby has found an opportunity in today's immigration debate to push its longstanding goal to "streamline" guestworker regulations and so expand the use of H2-A workers to harvest the country's crops.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said of the proposed changes:
"The Department of Labor will hurt both immigrant and U.S.-born workers alike if it goes ahead with its plans to strip a number of workers’ rights from the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. The Bush Administration has shown once again that it will go to any extreme to cater to the interest of corporations at the painful expense of workers, and that it is not serious about real fixes to our nation’s broken immigration system.
The Department of Labor’s proposal will strip the H-2A agricultural guest worker program of necessary wage protections, undermine other essential worker protections, weaken efforts to recruit workers from the U.S., and further erode government oversight.
In short, it is a policy the will do nothing to solve the problem at hand –the need for a fair immigration policy that protects all workers—and instead will ensure a deterioration of working conditions in the agricultural sector and make our nation’s employers even more reliant on the importation and exploitation of foreign workers."
Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for more on the proposed changes, as more details become available and plans for organized opposition to the changes develop. In the meantime, you can call your senators and representatives to express your concern, and read this essay by the CIW in response to a similar Bush administration effort in 2004 to expand the guestworker program across all low-wage industries. Here's an excerpt:
"... (T)he guestworker relationship is an extremely coercive form of labor relations. As a guestworker, not only does your employer hold your livelihood in his hands, but he also holds your visa, your very right to be in this country. With so much power concentrated under the employers’ control, it is hardly surprising that an inordinate number of recent prosecutions for modern-day slavery and forced labor have involved guestworkers, with cases ranging from New Hampshire to American Samoa. Indeed, the President’s proposal could well undermine efforts to fight slavery more broadly, as giving employers such wide control over their workers’ lives is a proven recipe for exploitation.
In short, the President’s proposal is the wrong policy for the wrong reasons, and should be rejected. President Bush is attempting to aid the efforts of this country’s low-wage industries to avoid paying competitive wages by granting them access to foreign workers, workers who will end up locked in second-class, dead-end jobs with no hopes of advancement or of ever becoming part of the very country that demands their labor. The proposal will hurt workers already in this country today, it will hurt guestworkers it proposes to import tomorrow, and it will hurt the Latino community whose vote it was designed to win in this election year.
Though the Administration timed the announcement of its new initiative in an effort to win Latino votes, most Latino and immigrant rights organizations immediately dismissed the President’s proposal as a cynical effort to play on the hopes of their long-suffering members. But if President Bush is really interested in winning Latino and immigrant labor support, he should consider returning to one of the principles that made this country great in the first place:
Reward work. Raise the minimum wage, restore workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain, and help win legal status for undocumented workers who are contributing to this country’s wealth. Reward work, not those who would seek government support to exploit already poor workers yet more."
Bitter herbs for Burger King executives, and slavery makes headlines on Sojourners, AFL-CIO blogs nationally!...
Check out the report from the moving Interfaith prayer vigil outside Burger King headquarters in Miami this past Friday (right), where CIW members and religious allies from around the country gathered to remember lessons of the story of the Exodus and to call on Burger King to "honor the dignity of those who harvest its tomatoes by ensuring a fair wage…"
Meanwhile, bloggers across the country are beginning to pick up on the unending stream of slavery cases coming out of Florida's fields. With strong new pieces on the Sojourners website and the AFL-CIO blog, labor and social justice observers are drawing the links between the exploitation of Florida farmworkers and the companies -- restaurant companies like Burger King, and even the private equity companies like Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs, and Texas Pacific Group that are increasingly major investors in the food industry -- that have profited from that exploitation, no questions asked, for years. Don't miss the great new updates!
January 30, 2008
Two new articles make it plain: It's time to end slavery and sweatshops in Florida's fields! ...
"It was really stunning – the likes of which I have never seen in my life. I've long been interested in workers issues. But when we talk about the race to the bottom here in the United States I would say that Immokalee, Florida is the bottom. I think those are workers who are more ruthlessly exploited and treated with more contempt than any group of workers that I've ever seen and I suspect exist in the US." -- Senator Bernie Sanders, in a compelling interview with Nation magazine editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel published in the Nation online.
Two articles out this week show that the latest slavery case to emerge from Immokalee still has the power to shock some observers, though the tomato growers' lobby -- despite seven such cases in Florida's fields over the past ten years alone -- continues to insist that modern-day slavery is not an issue they need to address.
"It should have been shocking to hear that two weeks ago, federal authorities indicted six people from Immokalee on slavery charges. But most Floridians have learned enough in recent years not to be too
surprised by revelations regarding brutal violations of human rights in the state's farm fields."
Someone who was shocked by "brutal violations of human rights in the state's farm fields" was Senator Bernie Sanders, who shared his impressions of his recent visit to Immokalee with Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel in a remarkable interview published today. Here's an excerpt:
"The days I was there – it was raining, when it rains you don't pick. The next day it rained mid-day so you had half a day of picking. Then, an amazing coincidence – when I was there the US Attorney announced an indictment on slavery charges. So we have seen now – I don't remember exactly the number – of different indictments that have been made against different individuals for slavery… which means that some of these people are being held in captivity, in some cases in chains. I think in the last instances, a couple of workers literally forcibly busted out of truck in which they were held against their will. So, the norm there is a disaster, and the extreme is slavery. And this is taking place in the United States of America in the year 2008."
Tomato lobby representatives, however, find no reason for alarm. In fact, from the industry's perspective, the only outrageous thing about all the slavery prosecutions is that the public should hold the growers' accountable for the abuses. As Reggie Brown put it in an interview with the Miami Herald during a recent visit to Immokalee, "We finally said enough. We're not going to be accused of things we don't do. This is certainly not a labor force held in servitude."
Just days after Mr. Brown's defiant interview, federal prosecutors filed charges against yet another forced labor operation, in what US Attorney Doug Molloy called a case of "slavery, plain and simple."
Perhaps Mr. Brown's might more profitably direct his outrage at the farm employers who continue to make his job as chief apologist for the tomato industry so difficult, rather than at the farmworkers who have finally said enough, we're not going to be abused in silence any longer...
Meanwhile, dozens protest in Knoxville, TN -- and deliver their own message -- and the Alliance for Fair Food gains several new endorsers...
The pressure just keeps building on Burger King, as the call for Fair Food continues to echo across the country. Long-time CIW ally Oxfam America put out the call to its vast network of supporters through an e-action recently, resulting in a petition with over 28,000 signatures that Oxfam mailed this week to BK CEO John Chidsey. You can check out the Oxfam petition by clicking here, and add your name to the list if you haven't already while the petition is still up! [The way things are headed in the campaign, Burger King might just want to clear out a floor or two of that fine headquarters of theirs just to house more petitions like Oxfam's...]
Meanwhile, Dave Ling, Co-Chair of Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee out of Knoxville, sent us this report from a great action (pictured here on the right) this past weekend:
"This is a report on a very successful demonstration which Jobs With Justice of East Tennessee and its allies staged at a local Burger King outlet on Saturday, Jan. 26--the Global Justice Day of Action. About 55 persons showed up, many from JWJ and TIRRC (Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition), as well as from local labor unions (UNITE-HERE, CWA, and the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council), churches, and students from the Progressive Student Alliance at the University of Tennessee. We had signs and banners and picketed in front of the Burger King outlet at 2806 N. Broadway in Knoxville, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
At noon several of us entered the store and asked to speak with the manager. We gave her a letter which urged local franchise owners and management to contact the executive leadership in Miami and urge them to stop their resistance to an agreement with the CIW and work to improve the wages and working conditions of Florida tomato pickers. She accepted the letter, thanked us, and promptly conveyed our request to the owner. [click here to see the letter]
We are planning to demonstrate at a Burger King outlet once a month until there is an acceptable settlement."
Finally, the Alliance for Fair Food just keeps growing, with new endorsements coming in regularly in the wake of Burger King's decision to join forces with the most conservative elements of the Florida tomato industry in opposing fair wages and working conditions for farmworkers. The latest organizations to join the AFF include:
- The National Jesuit Committee in Investment Responsibility
- The Louisville (KY) Presbyterian Theological Seminary
- The Green Party of Florida
- Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
- 5 Rights, Inc.
- Physicians for Human Rights at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Our sincerest thanks go out to all the newest members of the fastest growing movement for food justice in the country, and we look forward to working together in the months and years ahead to bring Burger King and other food industry leaders behind the princples of the Campaign for Fair Food!
Senator Sanders addresses the press gathered at CIW headquarters 1/18/08. Click here to see a higher resolution Quicktime video of Senator Sanders' address.
Senator Bernie Sanders, author Eric Schlosser visit Immokalee, CIW!...
Senator calls for hearings "so that the American people can understand how slavery can take place in the year 2008."
One day after a federal grand jury indicted six people in Immokalee for their part in what US Attorney Doug Molloy called, "Slavery, plain and simple," (Ft. Myers News Press, 1/18/08) US Senator Bernie Sanders declared:
"The headline in today’s newspaper says all that has to be said. In the year 2008, in the United States of America, slavery exists. Human beings are being forced to work against their will, are being beaten, are being denied their most basic freedoms. This should not be happening in the United States in 2008. This exploitation must end."
You can see a video of Senator Sanders' speech from the 1/18/08 press conference -- held at the CIW's headquarters, just blocks from where prosecutors say tomato pickers were held against their will, chained, and beaten by their employers -- in its entirety by clicking here.
In his powerful speech, Senator Sanders condemned Burger King and the private equity firms that are its major shareholders for their role in profiting from farmworker poverty, saying the American people:
"... need to understand why it is that huge multi-national corporations that make billions in profits are unable to pay people who supply the products they use a living wage. They need to know why financial institutions like Goldman-Sachs and others, who have major holdings in companies like Burger King, are not applying the proper moral leverage to bring about the necessary changes."
Senator Sanders also had strong words for the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, whose resistance to fair wages and working conditions for farmworkers has temporarily halted progress initiated with the CIW's agreements with Yum Brands and McDonald's. Noting that the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange executive Reggie Brown referred to the one-cent pay raise established in those agreements as “pretty much near un-American,” Sanders said in a release announcing the press conference:
“Well, let me tell you what’s un-American. Making workers pick nearly two and a half tons of tomatoes just so they can earn the minimum wage is un-American. Treating workers like slaves is un-American. Not providing decent housing for workers is un-American. Allowing workers to earn a decent living and treating workers with respect is not un-American. Indeed, it is what America is supposed to be about.”
At the press conference, Senator Sanders also released two letters signed by four US Senators - Sen. Sanders, Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Edward Kennedy, and Sen. Sherrod Brown - sent to John Chidsey, CEO of Burger King Corporation, and Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE), urging both Burger King and the FTGE to participate in the CIW-led initiative to improve farmworker wages and end the exploitation of Florida's tomato harvesters. You can download a pdf version of the letters by clicking here (both letters are included in the one file).
During their two-day visit, Senator Sanders and Eric Schlosser met with CIW members, toured the community, joined workers in the early morning as they gathered in search of work (right), traveled to the fields, and spoke with members of the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Collier County Sheriff's department who work with the CIW in investigating slavery operations in the area. The visit concluded with the press conference, which was widely covered in the local and national press.
Here below is a round-up of all the media reports on the exciting visit, and a CIW photo report, to boot:
Click on the links below for all the media coverage:
Finally, click here to read "The King's Penny Pinching," a hard-hitting editorial from the NewsBlaze that includes a link to a current American Rights at Work e-action demanding, "Burger King play fair and treat workers with respect."
January 12, 2008
The editorial board of the Austin, TX, Austin Statesman latest to slam Burger King for the fast-food giant's opposition to improved wages and working conditions for tomato pickers!...
Also, the same Statesman opinion touches on Austin-based Whole Foods, whose spokesperson defends the company's inaction by claiming to have "had no request from the (CIW)"... maybe THIS 3/14/07 letter to CEO John Mackey will jog her memory!
January 6, 2008
Back to Reality...
Incredible, must-see new gallery from the fields of Immokalee!
For several months now, Burger King and the Florida tomato growers' lobby have joined forces to "debunk the myth" of farmworker poverty, in their effort to fight back against workers demanding a raise in the picking piece rate.
The piece rate -- defined as the price paid to pickers for every 32-lb bucket of tomatoes they pick -- has remained effectively stagnant for nearly thirty years. In 1980, the going piece rate was 40 cents per bucket. Today, twenty eight years later, workers are paid an average of only 45 cents per bucket.
We are happy to be able to share with you an incredible new gallery of photos from Immokalee's fields by a young photographer out of Gainesville, Scott Robertson.
The pictures were taken in December of 2007. They capture work and life as a tomato picker in Immokalee as it is today: Looking for work before dawn, picking for 10 to 12 hours a day under Florida's relentless sun, and returning after a long day to the one-room cinder block apartments and broken-down trailers that are home during Immokalee's 8-9 month-long season.
Burger King and Florida's tomato growers say farmworker poverty is a "myth." The US Department of Labor says farmworkers are "a labor force in significant economic distress," suffering "low wages (and) sub-poverty annual earnings."
What's myth and what's reality? We hope these pictures can help you decide for yourself.
December 24, 2007
'Twas the night before Christmas...
Check out this Xmas Eve story from the New York Times, "Tomato Pickers' Wages Fight Faces Obstacles" -- including this great quote: "Angel Aguilar, a 36-year-old picker from Mexico, said: 'It’s a gigantic lie to say we earn $12.46 an hour. If they were to ask all of us, who earns $12.46 an hour, nobody would raise their hands'...” -- by clicking here.
December 19, 2007
Wave of outrage sparked by latest slavery case crosses the Atlantic, reaches British shores!...
One of the UK's biggest national broadsheets published today a front page "special investigation" entitled: "Slave Labor that Shames America: Migrant workers chained beaten and forced into debt, exposing the human cost of producing cheap food."
The article takes an in-depth look at the charges filed by federal prosecutors in the latest slavery investigation to emerge from the tomato fields in Immokalee. It is accompanied by an interview with the CIW's Francisca Cortez. Read it here now!
December 17, 2007
Slavery and sweatshop conditions in Florida tomato fields spark growing outrage in the press; Food industry remains silent about the conditions in which its produce is picked...
New articles in the Miami Herald, the Nation, The Week, Glamour magazine (yes, Glamour!...), and Forbes (yes, Forbes! ...)
Longtime Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm was one of several reporters recently to put their disgust at farm labor conditions in Immokalee into writing, as recent developments in the Campaign for Fair Food have sparked a wave of strong media coverage. Grimm was shocked by graphic revelations of abuse in the criminal charge filed recently by federal prosecutors against members of the Immokalee-based Navarrete farm boss family. In his Sunday, 12/16, column, "How about a side order of human rights," he wrote:
"... The workers trapped on the Navarrete work crew told of a harrowing existence, forced to work for meager wages while accruing charges for two meager meals a day, with extra charges tacked on for beer, soda, even water, until the debits outstrapped their wages.
Quitting was no option. Anyone who attempted to leave the Navarretes, they said, were hunted down, beaten, brought back to the slave house..." Read "How about a side order of human rights" in its entirety here
The Nation magazine also weighed in this week. Quoting the CIW's Lucas Benitez -- "Burger King has allied itself with the tomato industry...to push us back, back toward the same abuse and exploitation we have experienced for decades. But we will not be turned back" -- the online version of the Nation adds an excellent article to the growing wave of reporting on the sweatshop conditions in the tomato industry ("Farmworkers and Students Take on Burger King," 12/14/07).
Meanwhile, Glamour magazine -- usually known for its fashion do's and don't's -- brought news of modern-day slavery in Florida's fields to the readers of its December issue on newsstands now. The article begins, "You may consider calories and carbs when ordering a burger -- but odds are you don't worry that the tomato on it might have been picked by a woman or man held in forced labor," and does a great job of profiling the CIW's anti-slavery campaign after that.
Finally, John Bowe's book, "Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy," gets more good reviews. The financial news giant Forbes gives the book a thumbs up in its review entitled, "Slaves to Profit," writing, "Although the plight of the Immokalee workers has been the subject of numerous documentaries and newspaper articles, Bowe's renewed account adds an unsettling dimension--that slavery has become a crutch for globalized business." That's strong stuff -- maybe some of the titans of private equity that read Forbes like their bible might want to pay a little attention...
And if you want to read just how horrifying conditions facing workers held against their will can be but you haven't bought "Nobodies" yet, you can find an extended excerpt in an article entitled "The last word: Our slaves," in the online version of the new magazine "The Week." Here's the introduction: "Involuntary servitude’ still exists in America today, says author John Bowe. A brutal murder in a migrant farmworkers community in Florida shows how that’s possible."
And as for the shock and outrage from food industry executives at these horrific conditions where their tomatoes are picked, well... it's kind of hard to find. It's perhaps best summed up in this quote from Burger King's own Keva Silversmith, from an 11/25/07 opinion piece by Robyn Blumner of the St. Petersburg Times (“At a penny per pound, a little adds up to a lot"): "Florida growers have a right to run their business how they see fit."
Yep. If you're Burger King, "Florida growers have a right to run their business how they see fit." And that's our last word.
December 10, 2007
Fresh allegations of “human slavery” emerge from the tomato fields of Immokalee
Federal prosecutors say workers picking tomatoes locked in trucks, chained, beaten by bosses for trying to escape; Four arrested
November 20th was a momentous day in Immokalee.
On November 20th, according to court documents filed last week, three tomato pickers made their way to the Collier County Sheriff’s office after having escaped two days earlier through the ventilation hatch of a box truck where they had been held against their will by their employer. The three men told police of an Immokalee-based tomato harvesting slavery ring in which workers “were beaten and forced to work exclusively for the Navarrete family,” according to an article entitled, “Family accused of enslaving workers at Immokalee camp” in the Naples Daily News (12/7/07).
On that same day, November 20th, Andre Raghu, global managing director with the supply chain monitoring group “Intertek,” told the readers of the Miami Herald that his company’s audits of Florida tomato operations “have found no slave labor.” Mr. Raghu was quoted in the Herald as part of a high-profile press junket organized by Burger King and their new partners in public relations, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE), to counter CIW claims of a human rights crisis in Florida’s tomato fields.
And so, on November 20th, while well-paid executives assured the world that all is well in the Florida’s fields, workers in Immokalee were recounting to Sheriff’s deputies how they had to break out of a locked U-Haul truck to escape from their employers.
November 30, 2007
CIW: "Today, in the wake of the Yum Brands and McDonald’s agreements, we stand on the threshold of a more modern, more humane agricultural industry in Florida. Yet, facing this historic opportunity, Burger King seems to have chosen business as usual over progress, continued exploitation over justice. It is time for Burger King to seize the moment and stand with Florida's tomato pickers in our fight for fundamental human rights in the fields."
Click here for a full report from the unforgettable march, including photos, video, news clips, exclusive helicopter video, and a letter from former President Jimmy Carter to Burger King!
Fast Food Nation Author Eric Schlosser adds his voice -- in the pages of the New York Times -- to the growing editorial chorus condemning BK's decision to move against landmark agreements...
"The prominent role that Burger King has played in rescinding the pay raise offers a spectacle of yuletide greed worthy of Charles Dickens."
Award-winning author and journalist Eric Schlosser has written a biting opinion piece, entitled "Penny Foolish," in today's New York Times, taking Burger King to task for its recently revealed partnership with conservative tomato growers in Florida. The piece also points to the private equity firms behind Burger King as a possible solution to the current stand-off. Here's an excerpt:
"In 2005, Florida tomato pickers gained their first significant pay raise since the late 1970s when Taco Bell ended a consumer boycott by agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound for its tomatoes, with the extra cent going directly to the farm workers. Last April, McDonald’s agreed to a similar arrangement, increasing the wages of its tomato pickers to about 77 cents per bucket. But Burger King, whose headquarters are in Florida, has adamantly refused to pay the extra penny — and its refusal has encouraged tomato growers to cancel the deals already struck with Taco Bell and McDonald’s...
Now the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has threatened a fine of $100,000 for any grower who accepts an extra penny per pound for migrant wages. The organization claims that such a surcharge would violate “federal and state laws related to antitrust, labor and racketeering.” It has not explained how that extra penny would break those laws; nor has it explained why other surcharges routinely imposed by the growers (for things like higher fuel costs) are perfectly legal.
The prominent role that Burger King has played in rescinding the pay raise offers a spectacle of yuletide greed worthy of Charles Dickens. Burger King has justified its behavior by claiming that it has no control over the labor practices of its suppliers. “Florida growers have a right to run their businesses how they see fit,” a Burger King spokesman told The St. Petersburg Times.
Yet the company has adopted a far more activist approach when the issue is the well-being of livestock. In March, Burger King announced strict new rules on how its meatpacking suppliers should treat chickens and hogs. As for human rights abuses, Burger King has suggested that if the poor farm workers of southern Florida need more money, they should apply for jobs at its restaurants."
He ends the piece by shedding some light on the three private equity firms that are major shareholders in Burger King -- Goldman Sachs, Texas Pacific Group, and Bain Capital. He writes:
"Telling Burger King to pay an extra penny for tomatoes and provide a decent wage to migrant workers would hardly bankrupt the company. Indeed, it would cost Burger King only $250,000 a year. At Goldman Sachs, that sort of money shouldn’t be too hard to find. In 2006, the bonuses of the top 12 Goldman Sachs executives exceeded $200 million — more than twice as much money as all of the roughly 10,000 tomato pickers in southern Florida earned that year. Now Mr. Blankfein should find a way to share some of his company’s good fortune with the workers at the bottom of the food chain."
Read Mr. Schlosser's article in its entirety by clicking here. The article comes on the morning of Burger King's annual shareholder meeting in Miami, and on the eve of the March on BK headquarters. CIW members will be addressing today's meeting, bringing to the shareholders' attention the fact that the position taken by Burger King management stands not only to harm farmworkers, but to damage the company's image as well, as evidenced by the flood of editorial opinions across Florida, and across the country, condemning the company.
PLUS: Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to BK and FL Growers: "We Are Prepared to Go the Distance!"
On the heels of public revelations that Burger King and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, the growers’ lobby, have been cooperating to roll back the CIW’s agreements with Yum! Brands and McDonald’s, the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, writes:
"In the course of history there have always been those who have opposed the advancement of human rights. But the fundamental truth of human dignity has always triumphed, if not immediately, then eventually. Burger King and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) are using their power to try and turn back the inevitable progress of human rights for farmworkers. And their coordinated tactics, which squarely target some of the poorest, most vulnerable members of our society, are as morally repugnant as they are in vain ….
"The intransigence and duplicity of Burger King and the FTGE may delay justice for those who supply their tomatoes. And as Dr. King said, 'Justice delayed is justice denied.' But they will not prevail. We are prepared to do what it takes, as long as it takes, walking hand in hand with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and all consumers of conscience to achieve the basic human rights for these farmworkers to which other industry leaders have committed."
Be sure to read this remarkable testament of faith and commitment to justice by one of the country's most important religious leaders. You can find it in its entirety here.
Burger King, tomato growers' strategy exposed: Industry giants team up to sabotage progress for farmworkers.
Strategy may backfire as public reaction summed up in words of recent op/ed: “OK, consumers, sic ‘em.”
As the 2007 March on Burger King rapidly approaches, a flurry of articles on the Campaign for Fair Food has hit papers across the country. The recent surge in coverage was sparked by the revelation that Burger King has joined forces with the most conservative elements of the Florida tomato industry to launch an aggressive assault on the CIW’s groundbreaking agreements with fast-food leaders Yum Brands and McDonald’s...
November 22, 2007
Thanksgiving honors for farmworkers in Immokalee fighting for an end to slavery and a fair wage...
Declaring,"In the tradition of the abolitionist movement here in Great Britain, where consumers and workers joined to demand sugar free of the scourge of slavery and so helped bring an end to the slave trade, we are building an alliance of workers and consumers today in the United States to demand Fair Food and an end to slavery in its modern-day form," Lucas Benitez (left) accepted the 2007 Anti-Slavery Award in London at a gala ceremony last night. CIW members were awarded the 2007 Anti-Slavery Award by Anti-Slavery International, the world's oldest international human rights organization. You can see the photos and a report from the ceremony by clicking here.
Meanwhile, as families across the US prepared Thanksgiving tables overflowing with the abundance of our country's fields, families in several major cities across Florida read the following words in the op/ed section of their morning paper, from a piece entitled, "Show thanks by giving farmworkers a raise," (Sun-Sentinel) by Emily Eisenhauer from the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University:
"The pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving with food they raised and food contributed by the Wampanoag Indians. Our founding story is a recognition that our fates are fundamentally interrelated through our food. The food that comes to our table passes through many hands, and while technology is bringing us ever more choices and abundance, the one constant is that those good fruits and vegetables we eat have always been harvested primarily by human hands. Those hands will be at our table this Thanksgiving, their fingerprints on our corn, squash and beans.
But many of those hands are from different lands, and their work is not valued as much as others. The hands of a farm worker in Florida must pick two tons of tomatoes in a day to earn $50. At a rate of about 1.3 cents per pound, farm workers fill 32-pound buckets, run to the truck, hoist the buckets above their shoulders into the truck, and receive a token worth about 45 cents. To make the minimum wage, they must do that 15 times per hour, or one bucket every four minutes." Read the full op/ed here
At a time when fast-food leaders and Florida growers are joining forces to turn back the clock on human rights advances in Florida's fields -- and do so claiming, incredibly, that conditions in the fields are better than most jobs in the state -- these two Thanksgiving stories remind us of the harsh reality faced by the workers who feed us all.
November 19, 2007
CIW team reaches London in advance of the November 21st Anti-Slavery Award ceremony!... Click here for a full report from their first day in the city, highlighted by a visit to a most timely exhibit at the British Museum marking the 200 anniversary of the passage of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill in the British Parliament (1807).
Meanwhile... the Student/Farmworker Alliance National Days of Action chalks up nearly 30 BK protests across the country! Check out the SFA write-up, with pictures and reports from several of the national actions, here.
November 12, 2007
Anti-Slavery International chooses CIW to receive its 2007 Anti-Slavery Award!...
News comes as timely reminder of the unconscionable state of agricultural labor relations in Florida's Fields as the March on Burger King fast approaches...
From the Anti-Slavery International website:
"Anti-Slavery International is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2007 Anti-Slavery Award is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) for their exceptional contribution towards tackling modern-day slavery in the United States agricultural industry.
The CIW is a worker-led community organisation based in Florida, which works with farm workers trafficked into forced labour, the majority of whom are from Mexico and Central America. They uncover and investigate cases of slavery whilst raising awareness of forced labour practises amongst the farm worker community. Their determined efforts have resulted in the prosecution of six slavery cases in the past decade and the liberation of over a thousand workers held in debt bondage. The CIW also seeks to prevent forced labour within the industry and has successfully campaigned for corporate buyers to take responsibility for the conditions in their supply chain, leading to historic agreements with the largest fast-food corporations in the world."
Others who have won the award in the past include the Bonded Liberation Front of India, Harry Wu for his fight against Chinese prison camps, and Pureza Lopes Loiola for her work campaigning against the use of slave labor on Brazil's rural estates. It is a tremendous honor to be included in the same list as these distinguished defenders of human rights. The award is particularly significant this year, as is comes on the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. You can read more on the award at the ASI website by clicking on the links below:
- Forced labor in the US agricultural industry
- About the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
- Press release announcing the award
For the past decade, stories of modern-day slavery have come out of Florida's fields with an alarming regularity. The CIW -- with members in tomato fields and citrus groves across the state -- has helped lead the efforts to document and bring these cases to justice.
To anyone who cared to notice, the need for significant labor reform in the Florida agricultural industry was undeniable. Local newspapers ran in-depth investigative series -- with titles like "Modern-day Slavery: Still Harvesting Shame," (Palm Beach Post, 12/03) and "Fields of Desperation: Destitute Farmworkers Exploited," (Miami Herald, 9/03) -- provoked by the steady drumbeat of slavery operations discovered in the state. The national media also traveled to Florida to investigate the disturbing revelations of abuse, with articles in The New Yorker ("Nobodies: Does Slavery Exist in America?" 4/03) and National Geographic ("21st Century Slaves," 10/03). And most recently, a new book -- entitled "Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy" by John Bowe -- published this year, takes an even closer look at the phenomenon of slavery in agriculture.
Yet, still today there are "leaders" of Florida's agricultural industry who stubbornly deny that there is any problem in their fields. They call the Florida employers jailed year after year for holding their workers against their will "a few bad apples." And they refuse to admit that the unconscionable state of farm labor relations that is the norm in Florida -- sub-poverty wages, no right to overtime, no right to organize, and no benefits, conditions that can only be called "sweatshop" conditions -- is the fertile ground that gives rise to extreme cases of exploitation such as slavery.
Worse yet, those agricultural industry leaders are encouraged in their intransigence by the major buyers of Florida produce -- companies like Burger King -- that continue to buy millions and millions of pounds of tomatoes, oranges, and peppers no questions asked.
Thanks to the Campaign for Fair Food, however, that is beginning to change, and corporations at the top of the food industry are beginning to demand changes in the fields where their produce is planted and picked. Indeed, today, in the wake of the Yum Brands and McDonald’s agreements, we stand on the threshold of a more modern, more humane agricultural industry in Florida.
Yet, facing this historic opportunity, Burger King seems to have chosen business as usual over progress, continued exploitation over justice. It is time for Burger King to seize the moment and stand with Florida's tomato pickers in our fight for fundamental human rights in the fields.
Join us this November 30th in Miami as we march on Burger King's corporate headquarters and take the next step in moving Burger King out of the way of progress and behind the principles of the Campaign for Fair Food.
Meanwhile, check out these stories on the award from Southwest Florida papers:
- Naples Daily News, "Immokalee farmworkers' work receives international recognition" (11/14/07)
- Ft. Myers News Press, "Coalition honored for war on slavery" (11/13/07)
November 5, 2007
As the March on Burger King approaches, protests break out in communities across the country as part of the Student/Farmworker Alliance's Days of Action!... And, of course, Immokalee couldn't just watch from the sidelines, as CIW members joined human rights activists gathered in Ft. Myers for a protest of over 70 people outside an unsuspecting Burger King on Hwy 41.
And be sure to check back soon to see the report from dozens of protests across the country, courtesy of the Student/Farmworker Alliance.
November 1, 2007Leaders of the US labor movement to join CIW Nov. 30 as the Campaign for Fair Food marches on Burger King!...
Arlene Holt Baker, the newly-elected Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, will march and speak on behalf of the country’s largest labor federation at the CIW's March on Burger King this November. She will be joined by the AFL-CIO’s Director of Organizing, Stewart Acuff, and union members from across Florida and the country.
Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of SEIU and a leader of the Change to Win coalition of unions, will also be joining the march and speaking at the rally outside Burger King’s corporate headquarters. Change to Win affiliated unions in Miami -- including SEIU 11 and UNITE HERE Local 355 --- have long been close CIW allies, an alliance forged over years of fighting together for workers' rights on picket lines, marches, and in hunger strikes, bridging the divide between Miami and Immokalee.
The CIW is honored to have two such distinguished national labor leaders -- whose leadership is rooted in years of hard-fought activism -- joining us for this historic march. See you -- one month from now -- in Miami!
October 29, 2007Time for another news round-up in the fast-moving Campaign for Fair Food!... Here's some of the very latest news from the campaign -- and be sure to stay tuned for more breaking news in the days ahead as momentum is really beginning to build for the November 30th March on Burger King headquarters!
JustFaith began fifteen years ago in Louisville, KY, and is dedicated to "the Gospel message of peace and justice, Catholic social teaching and the intersection of spirituality and action." Many Miami area JustFaith members will be with CIW members in Miami this November 30th as we march on BK's headquarters, calling for a fast-food industry that respects human rights, not exploits human beings.
Several new endorsements of the Campaign for Fair Food have come in since our last update, including two from New York and two from right here in Burger King's backyard.
From the Miami area, United Teachers of Dade and St. Maurice Catholic Church in Dania Beach have formally endorsed the campaign.
And from New York, Wayne Action for Racial Equality (WARE) and the Light Box Theater Company have joined the growing list of endorsers nationwide!
Here, Marc Fulkerson (RB's produce buyer and an enthusiastic supporter) and Summer Auerbach (VP of Operations) hold up a sign that reads: "Rainbow Blossom supports the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Campaign for Fair Food with sweatshop-free tomatoes!"
October 19, 2007
Louisville Fair Food activists mark Columbus Day with a little parade of their own... outside Burger King!...
Check out the pictures and a first-hand report sent in by the Louisville, KY, Fair Food crew following an October 12th day of action at two local Burger King restaurants. And don't miss their visit to the local Whole Foods store where, for good measure, they let the organic food giant know that it's time for Whole Foods to add human rights to its definition of "sustainable food." The pictures and report were sent to us by the Student Farmworker Alliance of Louisville, Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI), and Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville (SAL).
The Louisville Fair Food allies ended their report writing, "Several Louisvillians will be joining the Nov 30 convergence in Miami
at Burger King headquarters. The only question is: how many? See you in Miami!!"
Like dozens of communities across the country, Louisville is organizing transportation for area activists who are planning to march on Burger King this November 30th in Miami. Be sure to check back soon for a complete list of all the communities organizing caravans and contacts in your area so that you, too, can "get on the bus" for Miami! In the meantime, if you 'd like more information on possible transportation, contact us at email@example.com.
October 16, 2007
South Florida ramps up for November 30th March on Burger King!...
As South Florida prepares for the November 30th March on Burger King headquarters in Miami, locally-based labor, faith, student, and community organizations are joining the fight for Fair Food. From Homestead to West Palm Beach, local groups are helping raise awareness in their communities (inviting CIW members, for example, to address classes, like the recent presentation pictured here at the University of Miami), and endorsing the Alliance for Fair Food!
Two weeks ago, Archbishop John Favalora of Miami wrote a public letter to Burger King CEO John Chidsey, urging Mr. Chidsey to work with the CIW to guarantee "justice and fairness for those who provide manual labor in the fields." Read Archbishop Favalora's letter in its entirety here.
Meanwhile, from the world of labor, the South Florida AFL-CIO and the Broward County AFL-CIO voted to formally endorse the Alliance for Fair Food. The CIW also received an extremely warm welcome at the Florida AFL-CIO state convention earlier this month, where CIW representatives were given an opportunity to address the convention and invite union members from across the state to join farmworkers in the march on BK headquarters this November.
And on the community front, Miami for Peace and the Broward Anti-war Coalition – whose members are veterans of many a South Florida Burger King protest already -- also voted to endorse the Alliance for Fair Food.
Finally, check out the latest coverage of the Campaign for Fair Food, with two great articles in South Florida university papers -- the University of Miami and Florida International University - and a nice piece of bloggery from the national AFL-CIO! Follow the links below to read the articles:
"Before taking the next bite out of your Whopper from the Burger King in Graham Center, you should gain a little background of where that food is coming from.
No, I'm not talking about the treatment of the animals raised for the beef and chicken products. Burger King has already worked with PETA to improve the supply chain so that eggs and pork come from free-roaming animals only.
Unfortunately, the humans who are involved in BK's supply chain are not quite as lucky."
"Down with the King: Florida tomatoes tainted by harsh working conditions" (The Florida International University Beacon, 10/11)
"... Quinn and Walsh used the then-new Facebook to get the word out and soon enough STAND was up and running. It eventually became the student group at the forefront of the UNICCO workers' campaign. The campaign was a year-long event and included strikes, marches and sit-ins before the workers reached their goal of receiving living wages and benefits.
"The strike was one of the first times I felt that I had helped effect change," Quinn said. "I was so proud of that strike. It taught me more than any class I ever took at UM."
Read more of "Student group revisits workers' issues: STAND focuses on Immokalee labor" (The Miami Hurricane Online, 10/11)
"Across Florida and around the country, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA) are hitting the streets for two months to mobilize workers and consumers to call on Burger King fast-food chain to improve farm workers’ wages and working conditions..."
2007 FLORIDA TOUR WRAPS UP... Allies across the state ready for a "November to Remember" in Miami!
Today, in the wake of the Yum Brands and McDonald’s agreements, the state of Florida stands on the threshold of a more modern, more humane agricultural industry.
This historic opportunity comes after decades during which conditions in our state's fields have been described as a "Harvest of Shame," "Fields of Desperation," and "Modern-Day Slavery: Still Harvesting Shame," in expose after expose in the press.
Yet, facing this historic moment, Burger King seems to have chosen business as usual over progress, continued exploitation over justice. It is time for Burger King to seize the moment and stand with Florida's tomato pickers in our fight for fundamental human rights in the fields.
The 2007 Florida Tour was the first step in moving Burger King to embrace progress. And by any measure it was a tremendous success. Here, in the table below, are the collected Daily Reports, Press Clips, and Multi-media reports generated over the course of the tour. To all those allies who joined us at a protest or presentation during the 9-day tour, we look forward to getting back together in Miami on November 30th! And to those seeing these reports for the first time... you can join us for the fun in Miami, too!
|Daily Reports from the Road:||Press Clips:||Multi-media Reports:|
Click here to see all the Daily Updates, with photos and first-hand reports from the streets, churches, schools, and union halls of Florida!
* Deland Beacon 10/10/07
* Ft. Myers Weekly 10/11/07
* Vision Latina 10/11/07 (en Español)
* Daytona News-Journal 10/06/07
* MSN Latino 10/05/07 (en Español)
* FSU Online 10/04/07
* Independent Florida Alligator 10/04
* ABC News, Sarasota 10/03
* Naples Daily News 9/30/07
* Ft. Myers News-Press 9/30/07
* Independent Alligator video of UF Gainesville protest
* Daytona News Journal slideshow and audio
CIW "wins high praise in new book"...
A new book hitting bookstores nationally this week "offers a searing report on recent immigrants enslaved as workers in out-of-the-way places in modern-day America," according to Kirkus Reviews, which goes on to term the book -- entitled "Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy" by John Bowe -- "brilliantly reported."
The USA Today review (9/17/07) is even more effusive: "Nobodies is investigative, immersion reporting at its best... Bowe is a master storyteller whose work is finely tuned and fearless." The review wraps up with this:
"Something must be said of Nobodies' final chapter, a masterwork and mixing pot of ideas, spiced by the anger of an intelligent man who has witnessed too many instances of the Latin proverb, homo homini lupus: man is a wolf to man.
There's a chill in the air when he writes: "If you can read this page, you are on top of the world and billions of people are beneath you. Your ignorance and your lack of a program will likely equal the squalor of your grandchildren's existence." read the rest of the USA Today review here
The book is a timely rebuke to fast-food executives who would continue to bury their heads ever deeper in the sand and claim ignorance of the often barbaric conditions in Florida's fields.
The CIW figures prominently in the new book. Bowe takes an in-depth look at three modern-day slavery prosecutons, including the 2004 Ramos case out of central Florida discovered and investigated by the CIW. The book also examines the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food as a creative, long-term solution to the seemingly intractable problem of forced labor in Florida agriculture.
Here's part of an excerpt from the book, published in the Wall St. Journal (9/14/07):
"On April 20, 1997, at around 10 p.m., the Highlands County, Florida, Sheriff's Office received a 911 call; something strange had happened out in the migrant-worker ghetto near Highlands Boulevard. The "neighborhood," a mishmash of rotting trailer homes and plywood shacks, was hidden outside the town of Lake Placid, a mile or two back from the main road. By day, the place was forbidding and cheerless, silent, its forlorn dwellings perched awry, in seeming danger of oozing into the swamp. By night, it was downright menacing, humid and thick with mosquitoes.
When the sheriff's officers arrived, they found an empty van parked beside a lonely, narrow lane. The doors were closed, the lights were still on, and a few feet away, in the steamy hiss of night, a man lay facedown in a pool of blood. He had been shot once in the back of the head, execution-style. Beyond his body stood a pay phone, mounted on a pole.
The 911 caller had offered a description of a truck the sheriff's officers recognized as belonging to a local labor contractor named Ramiro Ramos. At 1:30 a.m., officers were dispatched to Ramos's house. It's unclear how much the officers knew about the relationship between Ramos and his employees... " read the rest of the Wall Street Journal excerpt here
Click here for the St. Petersburg Times article on the book, "Workers groups wins high praise in new book" 9/15/07).
Click here for the review from Kirkus Review.
Click here for the Amazon.com listing for the book.
September 6, 2007
All the latest news from the Campaign for Fair Food...
See the Naples Daily News article here, and stay tuned for the SFA report in the days ahead.
In its annual Labor Day statement, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) highlighted the CIW and the Campaign for Fair Food as a "Sign of Hope" in an otherwise difficult year for our nation's workers, calling the CIW "an example of how courage, sacrifice, and a passion for justice can make a difference."
The statement went on to add, "In a small way, this is also a sign of hope for our Church that has supported and stood with these workers in their just cause and legitimate aspirations..."
"Burger King says it rejected the plan because of accounting problems that make it hard to confirm that the extra payments get to the workers. Because it buys tomatoes from middlemen suppliers and not the growers themselves, Burger King says, there's no way to trace the money. Instead, Burger King has offered to stop doing business with suppliers that violate federal labor laws and abuse workers.
This is hardly a Whopper of a gesture. Customers would hope that Burger King already doesn't do business with lawbreakers. The question is whether the company has a social conscience that is the equal of its competitors. If Taco Bell and McDonald's can work with the pickers, why can't Burger King?"
Josh's letter was one of more than 100 letters written by students at All Saints Catholic School in Broward County that were delivered to Steven Grover yesterday at Burger King headquarters in Miami, following a spirited protest (above, left) at a Burger King restaurant in Miami.
- Click here for more pics from yesterday's protest
- Click here to see more letters to Burger King from the kids at the All Saints Catholic school
- And click here for more reports from a long, hot summer of Burger King protests!
Here below are a few more excerpts from these incredibly smart and moving letters:
- "They work in the heat of the day and they bend over and stand up, bend over and stand up -- plus they haul all those tomatoes over to the loading truck. I personally think one penny more should be the least you could do to help them...," Vincent, 14
Steven Grover, in blue, vice president for food safety, quality assurance, and regulatory compliance, receiving letters outside BK corporate headquarters yesterday, 8/1
- "Maybe what you could do is for every pound pay them a penny more than they were making before. Of course, that would make you use more of your money that you make, but I think you make enough money to pay your tomato workers a little bit more...," Katelyn, 13
- "I don't think you would want a job that doesn't pay you enough to raise your family, and I'm sure you wouldn't want to be treated the way they're being treated...," Jessica, 13
- "The people picking your tomatoes are basically slaves, over-worked and poorly paid slaves. I am a 14 year old boy and I believe that what the CIW is doing to help people picking your tomatoes is very good. People should not be treated like slaves picking tomatoes for such low pay...," Damian, 14
- "I figure that you have received many complaints about this matter already, and are tired of reading them, but please hear us out! Why spend more of your valuable time and money on something that you can end by paying a penny per pound? We are working hard for the rights of these workers and we hope that you can join in on this fight for fair wages and better working conditions...," Joshua, 14 (read more letters...)
Note: If you are a teacher and you're interested in a lesson plan on the Campaign for Fair Food for your classes this school year, email Brigitte Gynther of Interfaith Action at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
And don't forget, coming actions in South Florida include:
- Saturday, August 25, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm -- Burger King restaurant at 1800 Sterling Road, Dania Beach
- Friday, August 31, lunchtime -- Rally at Burger King Corporate Headquarters, Miami. 75 students and young people from across the country from the Student/Farmworker Alliance will join South Florida fair food activists for what will surely be a memorable rally. Be there if you can! (see more on recent protests)
June 19, 2007
ACTION ALERTS: Tell Burger King to take a stand for Fair Food!... With the official onset of summer just days away, two new Action Alerts are sure to heighten pressure on the world's second-largest burger chain to clean up labor abuse in its tomato supply chain. Please take a few minutes today to make sure your voice is heard at Burger King's Miami headquarters as part of the growing nationwide movement for human rights in Florida's fields.
First, send an email to Burger King's executives to tell them, "Farmworkers deserve a fair wage," courtesy of our allies at Sojourners. And while you're on the Sojourners' website, don't miss this great analysis on the recent conclusion of the McDonald's campaign by Sarah Osmer of Interfaith Action, "Florida farmworkers make peace with McDonald's."
Second, as part of last week's blog entry, "Tomato workers need your support in Burger King campaign," the AFL-CIO has created an easy-to-use form to fax to Burger King's CEO John Chidsey. Simply print the form, sign your name, and fax it to Mr. Chidsey. Everything you need -- including Burger King's fax number -- is included on the one-page PDF form.
And finally, don't forget to contact us for brand new Burger King postcards to use for education and action in your community this summer!
June 06, 2007
New round of support from national religious leaders calls on Burger King to do the "right and just thing"!...
Coming on the heels of last month's powerful statement by the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ, strong backing continues to pour in for the Campaign for Fair Food and efforts to ensure fairer wages and working conditions in Miami-based Burger King's tomato supply chain. Take a look at some of the highlights from the first weeks of summer as the Campaign shows no signs of cooling off any time soon!
Rev. Michael Livingston, President, National Council of Churches:
"Now, Burger King has the tremendous opportunity to reverse decades of sub-poverty wages and human rights abuses inflicted on farmworkers whose working conditions in Florida were described by one federal prosecutor as “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” Burger King can and should partner with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a proven leader, and work for justice and dignity for the tomato pickers in its supply chain." Read more...
Bishop Timothy Whitaker, United Methodist Church, Florida Conference:
"I do not need to tell you what a difference this additional income and rights make in the lives of these hard-working persons who offer the most basic service of our society, which is providing us with food to eat. As the Bishop of The United Methodist Church in Florida, I am very impressed with the work of CIW and Interfaith Action. Along with other Christian communions, our Church does all we can to support these fine organizations that are doing God’s work in the world. " Read more...
Bishop Leo Frade, Episcopal Church Diocese of Southeast Florida:
"As bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida, in which your corporate headquarters is located and as a religious leader of a tradition committed to justice, I am writing out of deep concern for the farmworkers who pick tomatoes that supply Burger King restaurants.... I urge Burger King to do the right and just thing – work together with the CIW for dignity and justice for farmworkers in your corporation's supply chain." Read more (PDF)...
April 24, 2007
The fun's over, time to get back to work in the Campaign for Fair Food!... After taking a few days to rest up from their trip to Chicago, the hard-working Kansas crew is back at it again. As a sure sign of things to come, Lawrence Fair Food officially launched the Burger King protest season last Thursday with this spirited action at a local BK restaurant.
Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for more reports from across the country as Fair Food activists build on the unbelievable momentum of the 2007 Truth Tour and the campaign to make fast food fair food turns to Burger King, the world's second largest hamburger chain, in the light of the recent agreement with McDonald's!
In the meantime, here are some resources and background information on the Burger King campaign to help you take action in your community:
Letter to Burger King managers (for local actions): Click here to download the letter (PDF)
"But he has nothing on": Video and media round-up of CIW press conference outside Burger King headquarters in Miami, Feb. 2007
Miami Herald (4/10/07): "Now the pressure is on Burger King"
PLUS... PBS WEEKLY NEWS PROGRAM "NOW" COVERS McD'S VICTORY AND THE FUTURE OF THE CAMPAIGN FOR FAIR FOOD!...
Click here for the link to the PBS video! (Tip: Click on "Past Due and Pay Day," the piece on the CIW follows a story on the collapsing housing market that you'll either have to watch or wait for it to finish downloading to skip, so either way, have patience!...)
Check out this exclusive video from the CIW's "Concert for Fair Food"!... Zach de la Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine performing an original song penned in honor of the CIW's McDonald's victory!
Here's what Tom Morello had to say about the "Concert for Fair Food": "It was very exciting for everybody in the room, myself included. I mean, the place was just packed to the rafters and even the stage was packed with this ring of 25 photographers two feet away from us while we were playing, so it was kind of a trippy, you know, way to do our first show. But it was a great cause and we were happy to be a part of the Immokalee farmworkers victory." Read more!
And don't miss SPIN Magazine's coverage of the "Concert for Fair Food": "Morello, de la Rocha Rally 'Round the Worker'" (4/16/07)
April 15, 2007
Truth Tour, "Concert for Fair Food" rock Chicago's House of Blues and shakes the house of fast-food!...
By all measures, the 2007 Truth Tour was a landmark event, from the announcement of the precedent-setting agreement with McDonald's and its suppliers at the Carter Center in Atlanta to the unforgettable "Concert for Fair Food" at Chicago's House of Blues! Click here to check out all the pictures, reports and media from the Truth Tour that launched the MOVEMENT for Fair Food!
CIW, McDonald's, McD's suppliers reach agreement to improve farmworker wages and working conditions!
With the arrival of the 2007 Truth Tour in Chicago just days away, the CIW, McDonald's, and its suppliers gathered at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Monday, April 9, to announce an agreement that guarantees:
- A penny more per pound to workers harvesting tomatoes for McDonald's;
- A stronger code of conduct based on the principle of worker participation;
- And a collaborative effort to develop a third party mechanism for monitoring conditions in the fields and investigating workers' complaints of abuse. Read the press release here!
Read the media reports here:
- Miami Herald (4/10): "Now the pressure is on Burger King"
- NewStandard (4/19): "After McDonald's victory, labor activists target Burger King"
- Orlando Sentinel (4/17): "What's the big deal about an extra penny?"
- In These Times (4/12): "A win for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers"
- Chicago Tribune (4/13): "Burger King next target of Coalition"
- The Guardian, London (4/11): "Farmworkers win case against McDonald's"
- Palm Beach Post, Op-ed (4/15): "Pickers get this break"
- St. Petersburg Times (4/16): "Tomato pickers pressure brings extra penny"
- Ft. Myers News Press (4/14): "Farmworker advocates protest Burger King"
- Palm Beach Post (4/10): "McDonald's agrees to increase pay for workers who harvest its tomatoes"
- Chicago Tribune (4/10): "McDonald's case could set standard"
- Business Week (4/9): "McDonald's to pay more for tomatoes"
- CNN (4/9/07): "McDonald's agrees to pay spike for tomatoes"
- La Jornada, Mexico (4/10): "Ganan campesinos inmigrantes de Florida demanda contra McDonald's"
- WireTap Magazine (4/11): "Huge victory for immigrant farmworkers and student activists"
Check back in the coming weeks as we chart the course for the continued expansion of farm labor justice through the fast-food industry. In the words of the Bard, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown...
See all the news from the past two years of the McDonald's campaign!... Workers from Immokalee and their allies spent two years organizing to convince the worlds largest restaurant chain to support the principles established in the Taco Bell agreement, and the campaign was never a dull one...
Click here for an archive of all the Breaking News since the Taco Bell agreement (3/05)