"Como trabajadores y mujeres, tenemos que
luchar por nuestros derechos y contra la violencia tanto en la labor
como en la casa"
"As women and as workers, we have to fight for our rights and against
violence both in the fields and in our own homes"
Thanks for joining us, and don't
forget to send us any news, photos, or media reports on actions in your
community -- we'll post them as soon as we can and your action can help
motivate thousands of visitors to the site across the country!
of Immokalee Workers
1995 General Strike
The CIW is today spear-heading the Taco
Bell boycott. But before we launched the national boycott in April of
2001, we had been organizing locally for many years in an effort to
modernize labor relations in Florida's fields, improve wages and working
conditions for our members, and eliminate modern-day slavery.
To learn more about the history of the
Coalition, you can go to the CIW site
where you'll find all the non-Taco Bell info on the Coalition from 1995
to 2001, including past CIW campaigns, Press Archives, Photo Galleries,
1997 General Strike
Or, you can simply click on some of
the links here below to go directly to the pages from the CIW site that
interest you... just remember to hit the back button on your browser
to return to the boycott site!:
(From Notre Dame's daily paper, "The Observer,"
8/25/04): "Acting on allegations brought to
light by a stream of student protests last spring,
Notre Dame terminated its contract with local Taco
Bell restaurants over the summer."
"The University decided not to renew the athletic
department's $50,000 yearly sponsorship agreement
because of concerns raised by the Progressive Student
Alliance, Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin said
Monday. The students, who argued that the chain's
tomato suppliers in Florida treated migrant workers
unfairly, "deserve a lot of credit for bringing
up these issues, doing the research and carrying
on the discussion in a very responsible and studied
way," Storin said." Click
here to read the rest of the article
What an inspiring way to start the new school year
for students at Notre Dame (shown here in the photo
above during a march on the president's office last
Spring), and for students across the country who
are demanding social responsibility and respect
for workers' rights in their communities! With active,
growing campaigns on dozens of college and high
school campuses -- including UCLA, Grand Valley
State, and UT Austin -- the Student/Farmworker Alliance's
"Boot the Bell" campaign is one of the
fastest growing movements for social justice on
campuses today. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
to learn how you can "Boot the Bell" for
CHARLEY'S HIDDEN VICTIMS... Lucas
Benitez of the CIW (standing far right in the photo
on right) joined the Mexican Consul in visiting Latino
communities affected by Hurricane Charley, communities
already living close to the edge before the killer
storm ripped through their homes. Click on the links
below to read about their experience, including a
run-in with a trailer park owner who apparently insists
on collecting rent even when there are no more trailers
and virtually no more park...:
you would like to make a donation that will be distributed
throughout Southwest Florida where needed, The Catholic
Diocese of Venice will be collecting money.
Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Bokeelia (shown above),
Fort Myers and Arcadia are all located in the Diocese
of Venice and the Diocese has a great network through
Catholic Charities to the needy. You can make a
check payable to:
Diocese of Venice
Hurricane Relief Fund
1000 Pinebrook Road
Venice FL 34285
a happier note... Superstar Singer and Anti-Slavery
Activist Ricky Martin endorses Taco Bell Boycott!...
better known for his music than his activism, Ricky
Martin has distinguished himself among artists with
his exemplary work against forced labor, with a particular
emphasis on the fight to end the exploitation of children.
His "People for Children" project of the
Ricky Martin Foundation, " funds community based
programs which monitor and combat a range of problems
relating to the exploitation of children... (and)
is also active monitoring and combating areas including
debt labor, forced labor, modern day slavery, and
prostitution of children."
The CIW greatly appreciates Mr. Martin's support
and we look forward to working more closely with
him in the fight against modern day slavery (ok,
ok... and to shaking our bonbons with him on a picket
line someday, too... you know we had to say it!).
CHRISTI HONORS CIW AT ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE...
With a plaque
of their human rights work on issues thataffect our nation's farmworkers, Pax
Christi USA honors the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers... With this recognition, Pax Christ USA
also pledges to continue our support of your efforts
to end modern-day slavery in the fields of our
country and to call transnational corporations
like Taco Bell to treat farmworkers with dignity.
We commend all of the workers in the CIW for their
strength, courage, and witness." July 31,
... the delegates gathered at the 2004 National
Conference in Miami not only gave beautiful words
to their heartfelt alliance with Immokalee workers,
but then hit the streets in a powerful action (R)
, surrounding a downtown Taco Bell with nearly 200
protesters in the 90+ degree heat of July in Miami!
This growing alliance promises to have an even greater
impact in the months and years ahead.
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human
Rights organized a Congressional Briefing
this past July in which five CIW members testified
regarding their personal experiences of slavery
and exploitation in Florida's fields. The
event was co-sponsored by Representatives Raul Grijalva
(AZ), Hilda Solis (CA), Robert Wexler (FL), and
Linda Sanchez (CA). Click on the link below for
a report on the briefing by the RFK Center for Human
member named Mother Jones Magazine's "Hellraiser
of the Month"!... Here's a little taste
from the "Hellraiser" column of the July
issue of Mother Jones Magazine, in which the CIW's
own Lucas Benitez (L) is featured:
dignified, honest work that deserves to be treated
as such. This community of workers is... clearing
the path for those who will come behind us. It's not
something that can wait for others. It has to come
from us, who've worked in the fields.'"
To see the full
article, "Power to the Pickers,"
check it out online here.
cannot be considered a serious proposal": Former
President Jimmy Carter weighs in on Yum's "proposed
solution" to the boycott...
Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US President Jimmy
Carter, writing from the Carter Center in Atlanta,
added his voice to the growing chorus of organizations
and individuals calling on Yum Brands to take meaningful
steps to improve wages and working conditions in its
tomato suppliers' operations The following is the
full text of the former President's statement:
have followed with concern for a number of years
the appalling working conditions in the Florida-based
tomato industry. While production costs in the industry
have increased over the last 25 years, wages have
been effectively stagnant, as giant cooperative
buying mechanisms hold prices down. Conditions are
so bad in parts of the industry that there have
been two separate prosecutions for slavery in recent
In recent years, the Coalition
of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been publicly campaigning
to bring attention to these abuses of human rights
and for industry-wide change. In particular, CIW
has led a campaign to ask Taco Bell, a subsidiary
of Yum! Brand, Inc., the world's largest restaurant
company, to accept responsibility for ensuring that
its profits are not derived from abuses of workers
in its supply chain.
Recently, Yum! and CIW have been
in private talks, convened by the Presbyterian Church
(USA), to try to identify tangible ways to resolve
the problems in the tomato industry. Regrettably,
the latest round, which included talks held at The
Carter Center, was not successful. On May 20, Taco
Bell issued a statement that Yum! CEO David Novak
has called a "proposed solution." Mr.
Novak's proposal involves, first, the CIW calling
off its boycott, and second, a statement that Taco
Bell would be willing to work toward an industry-wide
solution to pay and conditions. While
Yum's belated acknowledgement of the need for improved
pay and conditions is welcome, this cannot be considered
a serious proposal. Yum! is saying that only if
the CIW ends its boycott will it be willing to support
efforts to improve wages, and only if the rest of
the industry does. This is a lost
opportunity for the head of the world's largest
restaurant company to take the lead in eliminating
human rights abuses that he knows exist within his
thanks President Carter for his continued interest
in our campaign.
you'd like to send a fax to Yum telling them that
"empty promises" are not enough,
go to the UCC action alert here.
protest at Yum Brands shareholder meeting, Yum "offer
to end boycott" cause quite a stir in Louisville,
Bell boycott continues following Yum CEO's public
Thursday, May 20th, started out
as a fairly typical day in the Taco Bell boycott.
Workers from Immokalee traveled to Louisville, KY,
for an animated protest at Yum Brands' annual shareholder
meeting, building again the "Pyramid of Poverty"
(left, 125 tomato picking buckets, representing
the 2 tons of tomatoes workers must pick to earn
minimum wage for a 10 hour day) as the centerpiece
of a protest full of eye-catching banners and a
Across the country, over 1,600 people fasted in
solidarity with the workers' protest (right, fasting
students at UCLA pass out flyers to fellow students,
read article, "Protesters
boycott Taco Bell with fast").
Then suddenly, things took an
interesting turn. Inside an otherwise formulaic
and oddly uncompelling shareholders meeting, Yum
Brands CEO David Novak made an unexpected announcement.
"We're ready to end this boycott, if you are,"
he told Lucas Benitez of the CIW, along with the
shareholders and the gathered press.
Sadly... it turns out that the
"offer" (which Yum spent considerable
energy publicizing following Thursday's annual meeting,
leaving little doubt as to the real purpose behind
the move...) was not so interesting, nor so sincere,
after all. As the saying goes, the devil is in the
In short, Yum's CEO offered to
work with the CIW toward an industry-wide surcharge
of 1 penny per pound to be paid by all buyers of
Florida tomatoes, and second, to help lobby Florida's
legislature for better working conditions. In return,
he demanded that the CIW end the Taco Bell boycott
immediately (i.e., in exchange for Yum's willingness
to work together, not for the actual achievement
of any real change).
For those of you who like to
cut to the chase, here is the CIW's formal answer
to Yum's "offer":
the shareholders' meeting, we asked David Novak
to enter personally into meaningful talks to address
sub-poverty wages and sweatshop working conditions
and to resolve the boycott. Apparently he prefers
to negotiate through the press. So here's our answer:
As it stands right now, your offer is little more
than a transparent public relations ploy -- empty
promises with no real commitment to change. When
you're ready to talk about real change for real
people, we are ready, too.
your company three full years to finally acknowledge
what the CIW has been saying all along: that farmworkers
are indeed a part of your business, and that the
workers who pick your tomatoes are indeed in need
of real change in their wages and working conditions.
But simply acknowledging what so many have said
for so long is not enough. Your offer does nothing
to actually improve those conditions and leaves
farmworkers as poor as they've ever been, with nothing
more than a vague hope for change. The boycott will
only end when Yum is committed to taking concrete
measures to improve labor conditions for tomato
harvesters in its supply chain."
In this case, the old adage
rings true: Yum, it's time for you to put your
money where your mouth is. Don't just talk
about a penny surcharge, pay the penny more to your
Florida based tomato suppliers so that they can
give farmworkers a long overdue raise in the picking
piece rate. You can afford it. And don't just talk
about labor reforms, reform labor abuses in your
own supply chain. You have the power.
Until then, until Yum actually commits a
fraction of its considerable resources as the largest
restaurant company in the world toward making these
hollow promises real, the boycott continues.
For the AP article
and a local report on the shareholders meeting and
the Yum announcement, click on the links below:
file takes several minutes to download with a fast
connection; film includes footage from the 2004
Taco Bell Truth Tour!)
two pieces of great news for the Taco Bell boycott
from this past week:
1) the United
Methodist Church voted to officially endorse the
2) the University
of Notre Dame, heeding concerns raised by student
activists, "is postponing renewal of a sponsorship
contract with Taco Bell until it receives more information
about its labor standards,"
according to the South Bend Tribune. Click
here to read the Tribune article.
The United Methodist Church, at their General Conference
in Pittsburgh last week, voted to join the boycott
against Taco Bell, following the recommendations
of the Committee on Church and Society. The Committee
voted 99 to 4 to recommend support of the boycott.
The full Conference voted 846 to 6 to support the
Taco Bell boycott.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers deeply appreciates
the support of the United Methodist Church, which
counts over 8 million members nationally! We also
thank the strong support of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) and the National Farm Workers Ministry --
both long-time endorsers and active participants
in the boycott -- that took an leading role in presenting
the campaign to the General Conference. We look
forward to working with our friends in the United
Methodist Church both here in Florida and across
the country for a long-overdue resolution to this
struggle for social justice.
We'd also like to recognize the members of Notre
Dame's Progressive Student Association, whose courageous
and determined efforts to educate their Administration
on the sweatshop conditions in the fields of Taco
Bell's tomato suppliers -- efforts that have included
over 100 students fasting over the past month --
appear to be bearing fruit.
THE BELL CAMPAIGN GAINS POWERFUL NEW MOMENTUM FROM
NATIONAL STUDENT HUNGER STRIKE! Taco
Bell contracts are under heavy pressure on two major
campuses this week, as students at UCLA
and Notre Dame are pushing hard for
their administrations to "Boot the Bell"
until Taco Bell takes serious steps to clean up human
rights violations in their tomato suppliers' operations.
Meanwhile, six students at Eckerd College celebrated
the end of their five-day fast at a rally in support
of the boycott (breaking bread, right). The six were
joined by nearly 70 more students who held day-long
Here are the very latest articles
from the student front:
PRESIDENT JOHN SWEENEY WEIGHS IN ON TACO BELL BOYCOTT!...In a powerfully-worded letter
to Yum Brands board member James Dimon (CEO of Bank
One Corp.), AFL-CIO President John Sweeney wrote,
"For my part,
I will be urging my constituents, the 13 million members
of the AFL-CIO and their families, to boycott Taco
Bell products until this issue is resolved."
President Sweeney's letter was written
to request intervention by Mr. Dimon in favor of the
Immokalee workers' demands. Click
here to see the full text of President Sweeney's letter
to Yum Brands board member James Dimon!
HONORABLE MARY ROBINSON, FORMER UNITED NATIONS HIGH
COMMISSIONER ON HUMAN RIGHTS, VISITS IMMOKALEE IN
SOLIDARITY WITH CIW!...Ms.
Robinson (shown in the photo on the left touring Immokalee
migrant labor camps with CIW member Lucas Benitez)
met with CIW members, took a walking tour of Immokalee,
and spoke at a press conference (below, left), where
she was joined by several CIW members, President of
the National Council of Churches Bishop Thomas Hoyt,
Rev. Noelle Damico representing the Presbyterian Church
U.S.A., and Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser.
At the press conference,
Ms. Robinson was refreshingly forthright in conveying
her perspective on the CIW's struggle, saying:
message to Yum Brands is: you can't pass the buck.
You are profiting by exploitation and you have the
power to change what is happening in the fields.
So, pay this penny a pound more for workers rights,
and assume your fair share of responsibility."
Press turnout for
the conference was great. Click on the links below
for stories on the day's events from the:
Check out the Truth
Tour pages for all the Daily
Reports from the Tour (including photos
and first-hand reports from the massive rally on
March 5th outside Taco Bell headquarters, the 44-mile
march from East LA to Irvine, and the 8-mile march
on Yum Brands headquarters in Louisville, KY), links
to press reports from Kentucky
to California, video shorts from
the Tour, and reports from solidarity actions
across the country! Click
here to go to the Tour update page!
Slavery, Florida Agriculture,
and the 2004 Taco Bell Truth Tour - Just
as the Truth Tour gathered momentum, a major new report
made headlines across the country about the epidemic
of slavery in Florida's fields. Read the story on
Modern-day slavery alive and well in Florida.
And for the Yum Brands executives still insisting
they need yet another study on farm labor conditions
in Florida's tomato fields, just read the report
by the Center for the Advancement of Human
Rights, please. You may want to pay special
attention to Chapter 2, Page 17: "Trafficking
for Forced Agricultural Labor".
For anyone still not quite
sure that Florida farmworkers are poor and exploited
(and you know who you are)...Two
in-depth, special investigations published in the
past four months by the Palm Beach Post and the Miami
Herald -- two of Florida's most-respected newspapers
-- should pretty well put any lingering doubts you
might have to rest:
Beach Post Special Report:
"Modern Day Slavery"
"It comes down
to this: We can consent to be the distant
overseers of farm workers who toil in a modern,
faint, smudged carbon copy of slavery. Or
we can await the day when tomatoes, lettuce
and celery jump out of the ground and walk,
the day when oranges and grapefruit fly off
the tree, all making straight for the supermarket.
Or we can pay a penny more for a half-gallon
of orange juice -- that penny to go into the
picker's pocket -- and fork over a similar
small markup on vegetables, for the same reason,
in the name of mere justice."
Report editorial entitled, "Still
To read more of the Palm Beach Post report,
Herald Special Report:
a glass of orange juice or eating lunch at
a fast-food restaurant doesn't automatically
conjure up images of exploited farmworkers
toiling in dusty fields like indentured servants.
a connection between the two is an unpleasant
reality in Florida. The orange juice that
accompanies your breakfast eggs and the tomatoes
in that salad may well be the product of a
process that begins with servitude -- some
call it slavery -- that decent people abhor."(From
Special Report editorial entitled, "Florida's
Fields of Despair: Destitute Farmworkers Exploited")
read more of the Miami Herald report, click
The truth of exploitation and
abuse in the tomato fields and orange groves of
the "Sunshine State" can no longer be
denied. But just in case those reports aren't enough
for you, here's a little more to chew on...
met many incredibly brave people committed
to helping victims of the slave trade... In
Florida I met a group of farm workers, including
many former slaves, who are trying to improve
the barbaric work conditions of migrant farm
laborers. They call themselves the Coalition
of Immokalee Workers. It felt good to see
that there are people who have escaped slavery
and are now trying to empower others."From 'Field
Notes from Author Andrew Cockburn,'
National Geographic Online.
The Geographic's feature
article from the September, 2003, issue, entitled
"21st Century Slaves," is not online,
but you can find a multi-media page on the
issue on their website by clicking
"All these factors
combine to create, in South Florida, what
a Justice Department official calls "ground
zero for modern slavery." The area has
seen six cases of involuntary servitude successfully
prosecuted in the past six years. Describing
local migrant-contractor power dynamics, Michael
Baron, an agent with
the US Border Patrol who knows Florida well,
told me, "Most of the time, these workers
are housed miles from civilization, with no
telephones or cars. They're controllable.
There's no escape. If you do escape, what
are you gonna do?...Whoever's got you, they'll
find you. And heaven help you when they do."
To see the New Yorker article
by John Bowe from April, 2003, entitled, "Nobodies:
Does slavery exist in America?" download
the pdf file byclicking
the Spanish-language media giant, recently
posted a major, multi-media report on the
deplorable living and working conditions for
farmworkers in Immokalee on its website.
Check out UNIVISION.COMto see the whole story in Spanish. The
report includes five separate articles, three
superb photo galleries, and a link where you
can discuss your reactions to the story with
readers from across the country. Even if you
don't read Spanish, you really should visit
the photo galleries for a powerful glimpse
into the reality of life and work in Immokalee.
while this isn't a documented study like the
rest, it's still a nice comment on conditions
in Florida's fields... Al Hunt, commentator
on CNN's weekly "Capital Gang,"
had this to say about farm labor abuses for
his "Outrage of the Week"
"Last week, the Robert
F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was given to
three farmworkers in the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers. These South Florida migrants are
a last vestige of neo-slavery in America --
below poverty wages, and brutal working conditions.
This is possible only because of enablers:
gutless politicians, greedy growers, and huge
purchasers like Taco Bell, which repeatedly
refuses requests from Immokalee to help negotiate
better conditions. In a week when so many
of us have so much to be thankful for, let's
not forget these vicitms... and villains."
Al Hunt was the mc at the RFK Human Rights
Award ceremony and, clearly, was moved by
the stories he heard that day from the laureates.
We'll give the last word to the
US Department of Labor (from its
January, 2001 Report to Congress on farmworker conditions):
"Low wages, sub-poverty annual earnings, (and)
significant periods of un-and underemployment...
all add up to a labor force in significant economic
MEMBERS RECEIVE 2003 ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS
At the award
ceremony in Washington, DC, from L to R: Edward
J. Olmos, Sen. Kennedy, Mrs. Ethel Kennedy,
Al Hunt (CNN), and CIW members Lucas Benitez,
Julia Gabriel, and Romeo Ramirez. For
photos from the ceremony, click here.
In a gala ceremony on Capitol Hill -- including
speeches by Senator Edward Kennedy, actor Edward
James Olmos, and a letter of congratulations from
former President Jimmy Carter -- Lucas Benitez,
Julia Gabriel, and Romeo Ramirez of the CIW received
the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in
recognition of their courageous work fighting modern-day
slavery in the agricultural industry and their leadership
of the national Taco Bell boycott.
A whirlwind week of events -- beginning with the
tense final day of a 34-mile march to Miami, in
protest of the impact of free trade policies on
human rights throughout the hemisphere (see below)
-- saw the new RFK laureates go from being surrounded
by thousands of riot police in Miami to being feted
by hundreds of celebrities, political leaders, and
activists from around the country in Washington,
At the ceremony, Lucas Benitez gave a moving speech
in acceptance of the award. Here below is an excerpt
of that speech. [To see the full text of Lucas Benitez's
acceptance speech, click
two days ago, we marched into downtown Miami surrounded
by nearly 3,000 police in riot gear, mounted police,
police on bicycles, police on foot, police in helicopters
hovering above Miami's skyline, their propellers beating
out the soundtrack to what seemed to us like a movie
about martial law in the US—all because we were
there to call for fair trade that respects human rights,
not free trade that exploits human beings... Yet today,
we stand here in this historic city—in the heart
of the US government—receiving this prestigious
award for our work in defense of human rights... Truth
is, my compañeros and I are confused. It's
hard for us to understand in which of the two worlds
we actually live—in the world where the voice
of the poor is feared and protest in defense of human
rights is considered the gravest of threats to public
security? Or in the world where the defense of human
rights is celebrated and encouraged in the pursuit
of a more just and equitable society?..."read
While in Washington, the laureates protested at
a DC-area Taco Bell restaurant (below, joined there
by Mrs. Kennedy and Kerry Kennedy), dined at the
former home of President Woodrow Wilson, talked
with national and international press, and held
several meetings on the Hill to discuss
We look forward to working closely
with the Roberty F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights
in the coming year to turn up the heat on Taco Bell
and to clean up, once and for all, human rights
violations in the fields
IN THE NEWS... Root Cause People's March to Miami
to protest the FTAA ministerial meeting a huge success!
Over a thousand
marchers poured into Miami on Tuesday, Feb. 18th,
for the culmination of the 3-day, 34-mile "Root
Cause" march, calling for trade policies that
respect human rights and the environment. The march
went off without a hitch, and with overwhelming
popular support from the people of the Miami area
along the march route, despite a steady drumbeat
of media coverage and police outreach to local communities
in the weeks leading up to the march focusing on
possible problems with "violence".
But instead of violence,
the press had to make do with reporting on the real
issues at hand in the ongoing negotiations around
the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), hearing
those issues, for the first time, from working class
people, people like Francisca Cortez of the CIW
(above, speaking to the press during the march)
-- people not allowed to participate in the secret
trade negotiations, but the very people who suffer
the real life consequences of corporate-led globalization.
* From The Guardian of London, read Naomi Klein's
or Bust," , about the inequities
of corporate-led globalization and the FTAA summit
in Miami (contains a quote from Lucas Benitez
of the CIW on the impact of free trade
on Mexican small farmers).
finally, "Shafted: Free Trade
and America's Working Poor,"
a new publication by Food First Institute
for Food and Development Policy. It features
testimony to the US Congress from June of this year
by workers and labor organizers on the true cost
of free trade policy for millions of people who
work for a living, from factory workers here in
the US to small farmers in Mexico. Lucas
Benitez of the CIW is featured in the book,
which you can pick up by going to the Food
putting your order in, or simply email us at email@example.com
and we'll hook you up.
More CIW in the news...
CIW statement on Bush guestworker program picked up
by The Nation magazine online!...Click
here to go to the Nation's Act Now page,
where you'll find links to the CIW's guestworker statement
and some great background on the CIW and the Taco
And check out this great,
great article on the CIW by Kari Lyderson in
LiP Magazine Online... More
so than almost any other article that has come out
on our work, "Pulling injustice up
from the roots" manages to convey
the CIW members portrayed in the article as fully
whole, 3-D human beings, while sketching a more
vivid portrait of Immokalee and of our struggle
than we have ever seen elsewhere. An excellent read.
Her work on the CIW has also appeared in The Washington
Post, In These Times, and Americas.org ( "Coalition
of Immokalee Workers gets to root of the problem,").
Annual CIW Year of the Worker Party a HUGE Success!
If you've never had the pleasure
of attending a CIW Year of the Worker Party in person,
here's your chance to enjoy the virtual party experience
here to see photos and a report from
the Jan. 25th huge, five-band, two "Despierta
America"-host (including old CIW friend Fernando
Arau, right), 1,500 person blow out! Check out the
banners (left), crowd, and fun of the 8th annual
block party that never fails to make Immokalee smile!
The Bishops of the Florida
Catholic Conference pass "A Resolution in Honor
of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers"...
"Whereas the Coalition of Immokalee Workers advocates
for human dignity through just wages, democratic participation,
solidarity with the poor, and the elimination of slavery
and trafficking in human persons..." So begins
a resolution by the Catholic Bishops of Florida approved
on December 10th in support of the CIW's work, and
offering "warm congratulations" to the CIW's
three RFK Human Rights Award laureates, "whose
work for human dignity is recognized by the award."
here to read the resolution in its entirety!
For more on support in the religious
community as we head into 2004, check out the great
article "Church bells ring in boycott"
from the St. Petersburg Times:
"The Taco Bell
boycott has garnered more religious support than perhaps
any social activist cause in recent years. Social
action is gaining steam in religious circles as believers
embrace a theology that says Jesus was a peaceful
activist who fought for the downtrodden." Read
INITIATIVE IN THE TACO BELL BOYCOTT -- TALK TO THE BOARD!...
For two years now, tens of thousands of people
from Florida to Washington State (nearly 100,000 in
all) have sent the CIW boycott postcard to the fine
folks at Taco Bell's corporate headquarters in Irvine,
CA. We figure that, by now, they probably got the message
about sweatshops in the fields where they buy their
tomatoes. There is, however, another group of decision
makers that we have held off addressing... until now!
the Yum! Brands, Inc., Board of Directors Letter!
The letter calls on
the good men and women of Yum's board to take responsibility
for human rights violations in their company's supply
chain. In it, we remind the board members that, "When
asked by farmworkers involved in a hunger strike outside
its corporate headquarter last March whether Taco
Bell could guarantee to its customers that the tomatoes
in their products were not picked by forced labor,
Taco Bell had no response. In fact, Taco Bell executives
refused to even meet with the workers and with national
religious leaders seeking to intervene in the hunger
strike on the workers' behalf."
The letter goes on to say, "Rest
assured that until Yum! Brands agrees to pay a socially
responsible price for tomatoes so that farmworkers
can earn a fair wage, and to begin a meaningful three-part
dialogue with the CIW and Yum's tomato suppliers,
I will boycott Taco Bell products. I will also work
to ensure that all of my family and friends are aware
of your company's indifference to the sweatshop conditions
behind Yum's products."
farmhand abuse claims probed"...
the Miami Herald (12/04): "Federal
investigators and prosecutors are now probing
new allegations that other farmworkers have
been criminally abused in the nation's second
richest agricultural state."
"It's rampant. It's out there,"
FBI Special Agent Jeffery Serna (lead investigator
in the recent case involving hundreds of workers
forced to work against their will in the Lake
Placid, FL, area) told the Miami Herald about
farm labor abuse cases in the state. Click
here to read the Herald article.
And stay tuned for more details as the investigations
victory against huge modern-day slavery operation
in Lake Placid, Florida!...
two year investigation by the CIW -- in collaboration
with the Civil Rights Division of the US Department
of Justice -- the leaders of a violent and coercive
slavery operation employing up to 600 farmworkers
were found guilty in federal court of charges
to hold workers in involuntary servitude, extortion,
and use of a firearm during a violent crime.
three Central Florida citrus employers not only
held orange pickers in slavery, but also pistol-whipped
and held at gunpoint drivers for a
van service who were attempting to give farmworkers
rides out of town.
The men were sentenced in November, 2002, to a total
of 34 years in jail and ordered to forfeit
$3 million in assets obtained illegally through
their operation. News
of the verdict went out on the AP wire.
See one of the articles, "Conviction
may help working conditions,"
THE BELL CAMPAIGN: All the latest news
from the campus
the Taco Bell boycott...
at the University of Michigan
reported in early January that they successfully
fought-off a proposal to bring Taco Bell to
the UM campus, while students at Occidental
College in Los Angeles held a very-well
received tabling in early December, gathering
over 100 signed letters from concerned students
to the Yum! Brands Board of Directors and getting
word out about the three-day march and rally
at Taco Bell headquarters coming up in March.
Three great stories out of UCLA,
where the Boot the Bell campaign is really,
really heating up. Click on the links below
for the stories:
Student support has
been crucial to the success of the boycott since
it was launched in April, 2001. Check out this
excerpt from student/youth statement read in
front of Taco Bell headquarters, Feb. 28, in
support of hunger strikers:
"On behalf of the students
and youth of America, we are here to express
with the farmworkers who pick your tomatoes...
Until Taco Bell takes responsibility for working
conditions in Immokalee, we will take our message
to the streets to ensure that it is anything
but business as usual for Taco Bell! If you
have not heard our statement through our solidarity
hunger strike, then you WILL
hear it through our actions!" (Click
here to read complete statement.)
Taco Bell executives didn't hear this statement
directly, the message has no doubt resounded
loud and clear through the more than 100
solidarity actions that took place
during the hunger strike and the 16
universities and high schools that have Booted
Taco Bell from their campus over the
Endorses boycott! Following
march and protest(700 marchers,
left) at a Corvallis, Oregon, Taco Bell, the
national organization of MEChA (Movimiento
Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, the nation's
largest Chicano student organization) voted
to officially endorse the Taco Bell boycott.
MEChA has been a powerful ally on campuses
from California to Washington, DC, for years.
This new endorsement promises to build even
more momentum behind the Boot the Bell campaign.
more on 3/26 protest from the
National Council of Churches endorses the
Taco Bell boycott!... Read
the CNN story here!
The National Council of Churches, the nation's
leading ecumenical organization, has officially
endorsed the Taco Bell boycott!
rare look inside the fast-food industry's sweatshops!
Check out this
great new photo essay by Wheaton Mahoney.
With photos from the fields and from the CIW
headquarters, this essay gives a fresh look
at the harsh reality of Immokalee and the struggle
for respect of farmworkers' most fundamental
labor and human rights. Don't miss it!
Coffee," a fair trade coffee company
out of Madison, WI, has launched a new line, dedicated
to the CIW and our campaign for fair trade principles
in the fast-food industry!
Now, with your morning cup of coffee
(or afternoon, or early evening for the truly hearty
among us...), you can help not only the CIW but the
indigenous Mayan communities in Chiapas, Mexico, that
grow the coffee.
is dedicated to the idea of a fair exchange for all
of the coffees we offer. We believe that everyone
involved in the coffee chain, from the grower to the
consumer, deserves to be dealt with fairly as partners.
With this in mind we have bought some of the finest
coffees from some of the world’s best growers’
cooperatives. All of our partner growers receive a
fair price for their coffee, at this point 3 to 4
times more than the standard world coffee market price.
All of the cooperatives we work with are democratically
organized and use a portion of their proceeds to build
community infrastructure such as schools and clinics.
The money we save by bypassing middle-men allows us
to offer our coffee to you at a competitive price
while at the same time paying markedly higher prices
to our grower-partners.
Just Coffee is committed to fair trade as our business
model and not simply as a market opportunity. We offer
micro-batch roasted, fairly-traded, naturally grown,
great-tasting coffees at a low price. When you buy
our coffee you can be sure that a large part of your
money is going directly to the growers and their communities.
We invite you to help us build a more just economic
model and a better world for all of us."
Guardian of London, ... "Taco Bell has
a policy that it will not buy food from contractors
that mistreat animals," said Lucas Benitez, a
hunger striker and one of the leaders of the Coalition
of Immokalee Workers, which is spearheading the campaign.
"All we are asking is that they have the same
policy for humans..." Taco
tomato pickers on slave wages
You'll find photos from the early
actions, details on how you can take action
in your own community, facts and figures
on farmworker poverty, and more.
This is where you'll find all the history
of the boycott -- it's a great section, don't miss
TO TACO BELL'S RESPONSES TO THE BOYCOTT(and
answers Taco Bell!...
Over the past several
months, Taco Bell has found itself obliged to justify
(or at least attempt to justify...) it's refusal to
help improve labor conditions in the fields where
its tomatoes are picked.
We have compiled the three
principal arguments Taco Bell has advanced in its
defense and presented our answers to those arguments
for the benefit of our allies, curious consumers,
and the press. Here below is a sense of this virtual
Taco Bell argument #1:
This is not our problem. This is a labor
dispute between one of our suppliers and their workers,
and it is not our place to get involved.
Thats Taco Bells opinion, and we have
ours. But in the end, the only opinion
that really matters is that of the consumers, and
to their consumers we say Taco Bell is
accountable for the labor conditions in the fields
where their tomatoes are picked, for three important
reasons -- power, profit,
Taco Bell has the power to improve
conditions along its supplier chain, and in fact already
has. Taco Bell and other fast-food giants
have already agreed to put their market power behind
an initiative to improve the living conditions of
farm animals that go into their products, at
a higher cost to their suppliers. Certainly
it is not too much to ask that they do the same for
farmworkers. As one of the largest
buyers of Florida tomatoes, Taco Bell can use its
influence in the market to demand produce grown and
picked in humane conditions. Click
here for more
The CIW firmly believes that workers everywhere should
have the right to organize -- the right to join and
form unions -- without fear of intimidation and retaliation.
We support efforts by our sister organizations the
United Farmworkers (UFW), the Pineros y Campesinos
Unidos del Noreste (PCUN), and the Farm Labor Organizing
Committee (FLOC), to improve conditions for farmworkers
Whatever job you do -- from the factories to the
fields, from fast-food to fire-fighting -- contact
your local union movement and help bring fairness
to your workplace. You can start by clicking
on the image below for a complete list by
state of AFL-CIO central labor councils:
Heeding religious leaders'
calls -- including a letter from Cardinal
Roger Mahony of Los Angeles -- to end their
fast, and vows to join the workers in their
struggle, farmwokers from Immokalee and their
allies ended their hunger strike on Wednesday,
March 5, the 10th day of their fast. The hunger
strikers ended their fast symbolically by
breaking bread (left) with religious leaders
at an Ash Wednesday service in their honor
at 10:00 am at the hunger strike site outside
Taco Bell headquarters.
In his letter to the fasters, Cardinal Mahony
writes: "I am writing to express
my solidarity with you as you continue your
campaign to secure fair and just working conditions
for yourselves and your fellow workers. Your
current hunger stirke has been a clear sign
of your commitment and resolve to seek a peaceful
settlement to this current stalemate. You
are to be commended for your commitment and
dedication in leading this hunger strike.
It has been a source of strength for other
workers around the country who struggle to
provide a decent existence for their families.
As the Lenten season approaches, and out of
concern for your health, I urge you to conclude
this fast. In turn, I encourage Catholics
to stand with you by fasting during Lent as
a sign of solidarity with you and in prayer
that you soon see a successful conclusion
to this campaign. As a sign of good will,
I encourage the leadership of Taco Bell to
meet with you in the coming days to seek a
fair and peaceful solution to this dispute."
The Cardinal's letter was joined by similar
letters from the National Council of Churches
(representing 50 million people across the
country), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the
United Church of Christ, and National Farm
Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a striker and CIW member,
commented on the end of the strike, “We
are not at all surprised that Taco Bell refused
to meet with us. In fact, we have grown accustomed
to their disdain for us, despite the fact
that our hard work and sacrifice make their
profits possible. The same way they
are able to turn a blind eye to human rights
abuses in their supply chain, they have been
able to step over us without a second thought
on their way to work during the ten days of
Chavez continued, “So today, though
our fast has ended, we are happy because --
to paraphrase Dr. King -- we have seen the
coming of a better day for farmworkers. Throughout
history, non-violent protest has served to
reveal the true character of the oppressor,
and our hunger strike has been no exception.
Over the past ten days, Taco Bell has rejected
pastors bearing a message of dialogue, physicians
bearing a message of concern for our health,
the mayor of Irvine, offering his support
for a solution to this dispute, and tens of
thousands of people acrosss the country who
in one form or another have been moved by
the hunger strike to demand justice of Taco
Bell. With each rejection, these good people
felt the sting of Taco Bell’s disdain,
the sting we have felt for nearly two years
now. And with each rejection, we have gained
new allies, allies that will help us win our
fight sooner and finally enjoy a fair wage
for our labor. So though our fast
has ended, today our boycott is stronger than
CROSS-COUNTRY TRUTH TOUR (3/02):
Daily Reports and videos...
ON THE MAP BELOW TO GO TO THE INTERACTIVE
HOME PAGE FOR THE HISTORIC TRUTH TOUR!
FROM THE TRUTH TOUR HOME PAGE, YOU CAN NAVIGATE
THROUGH THE COMPLETE, CITY-BY-CITY ROUND-UP
OF PHOTOS, DAILY REPORTS, AND MEDIA REPORTS
AS THE TRUTH TOUR CARAVAN CROSSED THE COUNTRY!
Click below for CIW video of the protests
at several of the different cities along the
NORTHEAST TOUR (10/02):Daily
reports and video from the road...
they're not talking about the CIW's recently
completed Northeast Mini-Tour... Though
they might as well be! The extremely successful
17-day tour, which brought news and analysis
of the Taco Bell boycott to cities from Washington
DC to Boston, wrapped up last week in New
England. Click on this link to see
reports and photos from the entire
tour (it is a long scroll page,
so get comfortable...). And if you haven't
done so yet, you should definitely check out
this great Newsday
article from our New York visit, "Fighting
for workers' rights".
if you really like videos and can't wait to
find them on the Mini-Tour update page, you
can see the collected short videos from the
tour by clicking on the links below:
The "Mini-Tour," a warm-up/scouting
trip for the historic cross-country Truth
Tour, was a joint venture of the CIW and the
Student/Farmworker Alliance, and it was a
huge success. CIW and SFA members crossed
the country in just under three weeks, meeting
with boycott committee leaders and the general
public in cities along the route of the postponed
Taco Bell Truth Tour.
The "mini-tourists", shown here
visiting the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN
(the place of the fatal shooting of Dr. Martin
Luther King and today the site of the National
Civil Rights Museum) kept a photo diary of
their experience, which you should not miss!
here to see their day-by-day dispatches.
IN THE NEWS....
TRUTH TOUR HOLDS A HUGE ACTION IN AUSTIN!
WORKERS FREEDOM RIDE STOPS IN IMMOKALEE!...
Saturday, September 27, over 400 farmworkers,
students, local churches, and peace
activists from Immokalee, Ft. Myers,
and Naples and the Immigrant Workers
Freedom Riders from Miami joined together
in a spirited march and rally for immigrants'
the on-again off again downpour, the
CIW and friends enjoyed the music of
JG and Havikenhayes of Over the Counter
Intelligence and speeches by members
of the comunity and the freedom riders.
Saturday's activities wrapped up with
a recording of the inspirational words
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, "Keep
this movement rolling, keep this movement
going. If you can't fly, run. If you
can't run, walk. If you can't walk,
crawl. But by all means keep moving."
EXACTLY IS GOING ON IN THIS PHOTO FROM
THE LATEST CIW ACTION... (5/03)?
a hint: Check out the excerpt from the
CIW's press release for the action,
Lucas Benitez of the CIW says, “We
have investigated (slavery) cases where
people have been pistol-whipped, held
at gunpoint, beaten, and told they would
have their tongues cut out if they talked
to the authorities. Of course, that’s
the extreme of exploitation in the fields,
but sweatshop conditions -- sub-poverty
wages, no right to organize, no right
to overtime pay, no health insurance,
no benefits at all -- are our everyday
reality. And yet Taco Bell treats us
as if we had nothing whatsoever to do
with their industry. We have asked Taco
Bell if they can guarantee to their
customers that the tomatoes in their
tacos were not picked by slave labor,
and they have responded with silence.”
“Taco Bell has a policy that it
will not buy food from contractors that
mistreat animals,” continued Benitez.
“All we are asking is that they
have the same policy for humans...”
right -- It's the CIW protest at YUM
Brands annual shareholder meeting in
Louiville, KY, where workers and allies
were calling on Taco Bell's parent company
to recognize its responsibility for
human rights in its supply chain, as
it has in regards to animal rights!
Click on the links below to see the:
TURNOUT AT WASHINGTON, DC TACO BELL
Over 3,000 people crowded
into the street in front of the 14th
& U Taco Bell in Washington on Sunday,
April 13 (the crowd bends left around
the corner at the upper right of the
picture...). The first stop in the Latin
American Soldarity Coalition "March
of Shame" through downtown DC rocked
in protest over the sweatshop conditions
in Florida's fields, aided by another
powerful perfomance of the boycott anthem
"Hunger Days" by JG &
HavikenHayes of Over the Counter
of 34 CIW members who made the trek
from Florida to lead the Taco Bell stop
on the march took up their position
in front of the restaurant, with a mountain
of press recording the action.
... in bringing
the Taco Bell Boycott to your school or community,
contact the Student/Farmworker Alliance (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (email@example.com)
for more information and materials that you
can use for organizing in your area, including:
are some of the materials available to
bring the Taco Bell boycott to your community:
Pins, T-shirts and more!
us what you think, ask questions, get involved!
Sign up for our mailing list. We'll send you
emails updating you with the latest info on the campaign.
want links? You got links!: Presenting the CIW
web site link
page, a growing list of allies,
important sites, and oddities that should keep any boycotter
busy and informed.