’06: Day of Prayer Press Release | CIW

Press Contacts: National Council of Churches USA (Phil Jenks, 212-870-2252); Pax Christi USA (Johnny Zakovitz, (352) 219-8419); Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Rev. Noelle Damico, 631-371-1629); United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries (Edie Rasell, 216-736-3709); Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (Dr. Fred Seidl, 716-465-7230); National Farm Worker Ministry (Virginia Nesmith, 314-726-6470); National Catholic Rural Life Conference (Br. David Andrews, 515-270-2634);  AFSC Great Lakes Region (Michael McConnell, 312-427-2533); McDonald’s Truth Tour Information at www.ciw-online.org

For Immediate Release

Day of Prayer and Meditation to Advance Real Rights for Farmworkers
People of Faith Across the Nation Remember McDonald’s and Farmworkers

National and regional leaders of religious bodies are calling upon their members to pray and meditate for McDonald’s and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) on Friday, March 31st.  On this Day of Prayer and Meditation to Advance Real Rights for Farmworkers, people of faith will be praying and meditating that McDonald’s Corporation will work with the CIW to advance the real rights of farmworkers in its tomato supply chain.  This observance is set to coincide with a prayer vigil and peaceful demonstration led by the CIW and religious leaders outside of McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, IL.

The CIW is a membership-led organization of agricultural workers based in Immokalee, Florida, that seeks justice for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international labor standards.   The farmworkers have launched a McDonald’s Truth Tour and have been calling on the company to ensure improved wages, the full participation of farmworkers in protecting their own rights, and an enforceable code of conduct based on universally established labor standards.

“Prayer and meditation have the ability to change hearts and minds, offer sustenance to those who are suffering, and open paths toward justice” said the Rev. Noelle Damico, who represents the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on matters of fair food.

The Day of Prayer and Meditation is being observed by the National Council of Churches USA, Pax Christi USA, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, the National Farm Worker Ministry, Interfaith Worker Justice, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and the American Friends Service Committee Great Lakes Region.

Religious bodies have been on the forefront of supporting the CIW’s efforts to ensure the food served by fast-food corporations is produced fairly.  Many national faith bodies supported the CIW-led, four-year boycott of Taco Bell which led to a ground-breaking agreement in March 2005 that significantly improved farmworker wages and established the first code of conduct for Florida agricultural suppliers which guarantees a meaningful role for farmworkers in the protection of their own rights.

“We’ve been calling on McDonald’s to do what Taco Bell has already done; namely to work with the CIW to improve wages and advance farmworkers’ rights in its own tomato supply chain” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.  “As people of faith, we are united not only in consumer advocacy but also in prayer and meditation.”

Farmworkers continue to be some of the most exploited and impoverished workers in the US. Florida’s tomato pickers earn 40-50 cents for each 32lb bucket of tomatoes they pick. At that rate – a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1978 – workers have to pick more than two tons of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage. They receive no overtime pay and no benefits, and have no right to organize in order to improve these conditions.

“The regularized exploitation faced by farmworkers picking tomatoes for McDonald’s suppliers is a glaring example of social sinfulness.  As people, created by a loving God, we are called to ensure that our economic systems work for the well-being of all, not just some” insisted Dave Robinson, Executive Director of Pax Christi (U.S.A.).  “On this Friday in Lent, we pray for the transformation of McDonald’s supply chain and the recognition of the full dignity and rights of the Immokalee workers.”

The Day of Prayer and Meditation comes during the CIW-led McDonald’s Truth Tour which is visiting seventeen cities as it educates and mobilizes consumers.  The Truth Tour culminates with a peaceful, mass rally at the Rock ‘n Roll McDonald’s in downtown Chicago, on April 1st at 1pm.       

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