Julia Gabriel: "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!
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
WHO WE ARE
1995 General Strike Immokalee, Florida
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, and more!
1997 General Strike Immokalee, Florida
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 justice!
HURRICANE 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...:
If 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
On a happier note... Superstar Singer and Anti-Slavery Activist Ricky Martin endorses Taco Bell Boycott!... Although far 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!).
PAX CHRISTI HONORS CIW AT ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE... With a plaque reading:
"In recognition 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, 2004
... 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.
And speaking of alliances...The 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 Rights:
CIW 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:
"'Picking is 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.
"This 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:
"I 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 years.
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 supply chain."
The CIW thanks President Carter for his continued interest in our campaign.
If you'd like to send a fax to Yum telling them that "empty promises" are not enough, go to the UCC action alert here.
CIW protest at Yum Brands shareholder meeting, Yum "offer to end boycott" cause quite a stir in Louisville, nationally!... Taco Bell boycott continues following Yum CEO's public relations gambit...
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 jubilant spirit.
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 details.
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":
"At the shareholders' meeting, we asked David Novak to enter personally into meaningful talks to address farmworkers' 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.
It took 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:
(The compressed file takes several minutes to download with a fast connection; film includes footage from the 2004 Taco Bell Truth Tour!)
HUGE NEWS!In two pieces of great news for the Taco Bell boycott from this past week:
1) the United Methodist Church voted to officially endorse the boycott, and
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.
BOOT 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 solidarity fasts.
Here are the very latest articles from the student front:
AFL-CIO 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!
THE 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:
"My 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 CNN: Report: 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:
Palm 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." (From Special Report editorial entitled, "Still harvesting shame")
To read more of the Palm Beach Post report, click here.
Miami Herald Special Report:
"Fields of Desperation"
"Drinking 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.
But 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")
To read more of the Miami Herald report, click here.
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...
"I 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 here.
"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 here.
Univision, 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.
And 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" (Nov. 30):
"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 distress."
CIW MEMBERS RECEIVE 2003 ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD!
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, DC.
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 here.]
"Just 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 more
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 their work.
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
ALSO 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 "Miami 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).
* And 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 First websiteand 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 Bell boycott.
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,").
8th 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 online...
Click 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." Click 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 more...
NEW 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!
Introducing 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."
"New farmhand abuse claims probed"... According to 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 proceed...
Landmark victory against huge modern-day slavery operation in Lake Placid, Florida!... (11/02): After a 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 including: conspiracy to hold workers in involuntary servitude, extortion, and use of a firearm during a violent crime.
The 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," here.
BOOT THE BELL CAMPAIGN: All the latest news from the campus front of the Taco Bell boycott...
The latest news!...Students 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.
Plus... 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 our solidarity 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.)
If 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 past year.
MEChA Endorses boycott! Following a huge 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. Read more on 3/26 protest from the Corvallis Gazette-Times...
Plus... 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!
SPECIAL FEATURE: A 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!
"Just 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.
"Just 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."
HUNGER STRIKE: The 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 it
CIW RESPONDS TO TACO BELL'S RESPONSES TO THE BOYCOTT(and so on...)
CIW 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 debate:
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.
CIW response: 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, and possibility...
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 UNION DIFFERENCE
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 everywhere.
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 Worker Ministries.
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 our fast.”
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 ever.”
CIW CROSS-COUNTRY TRUTH TOUR (3/02): Daily Reports and videos...
CLICK 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!
And we've got videos(Quicktime)! Click below for CIW video of the protests at several of the different cities along the route...
CIW NORTHEAST TOUR (10/02):Daily reports and video from the road...
No, 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".
Of course, 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! Click here to see their day-by-day dispatches.
ALSO IN THE NEWS....
TEXAS-SIZED TRUTH TOUR HOLDS A HUGE ACTION IN AUSTIN!
IMMIGRANT WORKERS FREEDOM RIDE STOPS IN IMMOKALEE!...
On 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' rights.
Despite 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."
WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON IN THIS PHOTO FROM THE LATEST CIW ACTION... (5/03)?
Here's a hint: Check out the excerpt from the CIW's press release for the action, below:
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...”
That's 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:
RECORD TURNOUT AT WASHINGTON, DC TACO BELL PROTEST (4/03)!
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 Intelligence.
A contingent 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:
Here are some of the materials available to bring the Taco Bell boycott to your community:
Bumperstickers, Pins, T-shirts and more!
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You 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.