Mr. Jim Skinner, CEO
Oak Brooks, IL 60523
Dear Mr. Skinner,
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit Immokalee, Florida to learn first-hand about the conditions tomato pickers face. The low wages, abusive conditions, and complete lack of benefits create a situation that no human should endure. For those workers who toil in modern-day slavery, the situation is even more atrocious.
Yet, from the heart of a desperate situation has risen a remarkable group of farmworkers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The members and leaders of the CIW are dedicated to advancing human rights and improving the situation in the fields. The CIW’s successes range from uncovering slavery cases in the fields to working with Yum Brands to implement a historic agreement for social responsibility and improved wages in Taco Bell’s tomato supply chain.
It is now my understanding McDonald’s has the opportunity to enter into a relationship with CIW and together work to ensure the highest standards of social responsibility in its own supply chain. As a devoted fan of the Quarterpounder (with cheese) I applaud this opportunity. I strongly urge McDonald’s to take this occasion for doing the right thing, and in doing so, work with the CIW to improve conditions and wages in the fields- counteracting the downward pressure that its high-volume, low-cost tomato purchasing causes.
Efforts by McDonald’s that do not include the farmworkers of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are flawed by their very nature because the people who have struggled for over a decade to successfully improve human rights abuses in the fields are silenced. Furthermore, by participating in SAFE, McDonald’s is undercutting one of the most important tenets achieved in the CIW-Taco Bell agreement: a concrete improvement in farmworker wages. McDonald’s failure to address wages condemns farmworkers to a future no different than the past 25 years, toiling in the fields of this country for sub-poverty wages. McDonald’s has the opportunity to make the future different than the past, a new future that will be better for us all.
As people of faith, we lift up the work of those who pick the tomatoes that nourish us and which top the hamburgers that have made McDonald’s famous. We also realize the urgency of their situation, in which they struggle daily to survive, to feed their children, and to work with dignity. I call upon McDonald’s to delay no longer, but to take the opportunity to work with the CIW to improve wages and working conditions in the fields. I would hope you would recognize that the farmworkers, like your customers, deserve a break today.
The Rev. Arnold C. Nelson, Jr
President, Disciples Home Missions
cc: Mr. Bob Langert, Senior Director of Social Responsibility
cc: Coalition of Immokalee Workers
cc: The Rev. James Burton, Disciples Farmworker Ministry
cc: The Rev. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President