27 May 2008
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has achieved a major victory in its Campaign for Fair Food after fast-food giant Burger King agreed to work with them to improve the wages and working conditions of those who pick its tomatoes.
Under the agreement signed between the CIW and Burger King on 23 May, Burger King will pay 1.5 cents more per pound of tomatoes it buys, with a cent going directly to the tomato pickers’ wages. The other half cent will go to growers to encourage their participation by covering any additional payroll taxes and administrative costs. It includes a zero-tolerance guideline for certain unlawful activities such as forced labour, with immediate termination from the Burger King supply chain of any grower found in breach, as well as farm worker participation in the monitoring of a supplier code of conduct. Burger King now joins other fast-food industry leaders and the CIW in calling for an industry-wide penny per pound surcharge to increase wages for tomato pickers.
The CIW launched its campaign against Burger King with a march on its Miami headquarters in November 2007. The Burger King campaign was the latest phase of the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, which began in 2001, targeting the major food corporations who have tremendous buying power which they use to pressure suppliers to reduce prices, which can lead to lower wages and poor working conditions. The Burger King victory follows historic agreements reached with Yum! Brands in 2005 and with McDonalds in 2007.
At a joint press conference held to sign the agreement, Lucas Benitez, co-founder of the CIW said “Today we are one step closer to building a world where we, as farm workers, can enjoy a fair wage and humane working conditions in exchange for the hard and essential work we do everyday. We are not there yet, but we are getting there, and this agreement should send a strong message to the rest of the restaurant and supermarket industry: Now is the time to join Yum! Brands, McDonalds, and Burger King in righting the wrongs that have been allowed to linger to Florida’s fields for far too long”. John Chidsey, Chief Executive Officer of Burger King said “We are pleased to now be working together with the CIW to further the common goal of improving Florida tomato farm workers’ wages, working conditions and lives…Today we turn a new page in our relationship and begin a new chapter of real progress for Florida farm workers”.