Point-by-Point Comparison: Principles Established in Taco Bell Agreement vs McDonald’s SAFE and Additional Supplier Standards

 

Taco Bell Agreement
McDonald’s / SAFE

WAGE INCREASE:

Taco Bell’s increase of one penny more per pound means workers earn roughly 75 cents/bucket when picking tomatoes for Taco Bell, up from the going rate of 40-45 cents.

At the current 40-45 cent rate for a 32-lb bucket of tomatoes, workers earn between 1.25 and 1.4 cents per pound. The additional 1-cent therefore nearly doubles the percentage of the final retail price going to the workers who pick the produce.

According to US Department of Labor farmworkers earn between $7,500 – $10,000 annually. If instituted across the industry, therefore, the penny per pound increase would put, roughly, an additional $6,000-$7,000 into workers’ pockets per year.

While this would indeed be a significant raise for the country’s worst-paid workers, it is useful to bear in mind that, given farmworkers’ current income levels, this raise would only bring workers up to poverty level.

WAGE INCREASE:

None.

McDonald’s has said that SAFE standards require their suppliers to guarantee that workers picking by the piece will receive at least minimum wage. McDonald’s says this requirement will result in a wage increase. There are two problems with this position:

  1. It is not an increase, unless it is McDonald’s position that its suppliers have, until now, been stealing their workers’ wages. The minimum wage guarantee has been the law for decades.
  2. Taco Bell suppliers are also required to comply with the law, including the minimum wage guarantee. But Taco Bell is also paying the additional penny per pound, resulting in an absolute increase above the common minimum wage standard.

Recognizing the limitations of SAFE, McDonald’s subsequently announced that it will require its suppliers to pay into Social Security, Workers Compensation, and Medicaid and that some suppliers may provide low-cost housing and transportation. This is nothing more than a package of basic employment benefits already required by law and practices already common in the tomato industry. The additional standards will not result in any significant change, as the majority of large growers already meet these “new” requirements. In practice, this simply means that McDonald’s will only buy from large growers, which McDonald’s already does.

WORKER PARTICIPATION:

Taco Bell’s “Supplemental Policy Statement for Florida Tomato Growers” authorizes farmworkers, through the CIW, to participate fully in enforcing the Taco Bell code of conduct.

The Supplemental Policy Statement was drafted in negotiations with workers through the CIW.

Workers, through the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, are partners in the new code and continue to work with Yum Brands representatives in the ongoing definition of enforcement protocols.

WORKER PARTICIPATION:

None.

Barbara Mainster, the Executive Director of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association and an original member of the SAFE board of directors, told the press that she “had no idea who all was included,” in drafting the code of conduct, but stated that “my guess is that agricultural entities were involved.”

Ms. Mainster told a Tampa radio interviewer that, as far as she knows, “no farmworkers were involved in writing the code.”

As is the case with McDonald’s non-wage supplier requirements, the SAFE code of conduct is an extension of the assumption that growers know best what is good for “their” pickers. In the case of the supplier requirements, workers are told that labor camp housing is better than a wage increase that would allow workers to rent their own housing; in the case of the SAFE code, workers are not consulted in drafting the code and must rely on the good will of the growers to police themselves.

TRANSPARENCY:

100% transparency for Taco Bell tomato purchases in Florida.

The agreement commits Taco Bell to buy only from Florida growers who agree to the penny/lb pass-through and to document and monitor the pass-through, providing the CIW with complete weekly reports of Taco Bell’s Florida tomato purchases.

This transparency lends significant credibility to Taco Bell’s code of conduct and facilitates enforcement, as it is immediately possible to determine if Taco Bell is purchasing from suppliers where labor rights violations are determined to be occurring.

TRANSPARENCY:

None.

McDonald’s does not make its supplier information known – the identity of suppliers nor quantities purchased – to the public nor to the CIW.

WORKER SUPPORT:

The CIW has over 3,500 signature cards from workers supporting the CIW’s campaign to expand the wage increase and labor rights advances through the rest of the retail food industry.

WORKER SUPPORT:

None.

 

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