February 11, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA (352-219-8419); Arnold Nelson, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (317-635-3100); Noelle Damico, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (631-371-9877); Virginia Nesmith, National Farm Worker Ministry (314-726-6470); Neil Michaud, Peace and Justice Office, Diocese of Venice, Roman Catholic Church (941-255-1353); CIW website: www.ciw-online.org; PC(USA) website: www.pcusa.org/boycott;
CHRISTIANS TO FAST, PRAY DURING LENT FOR A JUST RESOLUTION OF THE TACO BELL BOYCOTT
LOUISVILLE, KY – National and regional leaders of Christian churches have called upon their members to fast and pray each Friday during Lent for a just resolution of the Taco Bell boycott. Christians supporting the boycott have been calling upon Yum Brands, the world’s largest fast food company, to address human rights abuses in its supply chain in partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The boycott was called in April 2001 by the CIW, a community-based organization of workers that pick tomatoes for Florida-based growers.
"We pray that both Yum Brands and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers would find new energy to renew serious talks and work together for the just world God intends” explained the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Yum Brands, based in Louisville, owns Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silver’s, A&W Restaurants and Pizza Hut.
The Christian season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and concludes six weeks later with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. “Lent is a time when Christians seek repentance, reconciliation, and transformation within human relationships and within our society,” explained Johnny Zokovitch of Pax Christi USA. “It is a time when we ask God to help us change and become the kind of people and the kind of world God desires. We believe God cares deeply about whether our economic systems and business practices ensure the well-being of all.”
Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for Florida-based growers labor for sub-poverty wages, receiving 40 – 45 cents for each 32 pound bucket of tomatoes they pick and haul. Workers wages have remained unchanged for over 25 years. According to the Department of Labor, farmworkers earn a median annual income of $7,500. They receive no benefits and are obligated to work overtime with no overtime pay.
These egregious working conditions prompted the CIW to call for a consumer boycott of Taco Bell that has drawn the support of national religious bodies including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Friends Service Committee, Alliance of Baptists, Pax Christi USA and International, and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the (U.S.A.) whose membership comprises 36 Protestant and Orthodox communions whose constituent membership represents over 50 million Christians in the United States. The boycott has also been endorsed by Bishop John J. Nevins of the Diocese of Venice (FL) in which Immokalee is located and the National Farm Worker Ministry.
On Saturday, March 12th the Florida farmworkers will be joined by Martin Sheen, Kerry Kennedy, religious allies and thousands of supporters as they rally outside Yum Brands headquarters in Louisville, and call on the world’s largest fast food company to take responsibility for human rights abuses in its supply chain.