From a UCC Justice and Peace Action Network newsletter:
You probably also know that after much work and a successful boycott, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) won an agreement with Taco Bell for improved pay, better working conditions, and greater dignity for tomato pickers. CIW also signed similar agreements with McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silverâ€™s, and A & W Restaurants.
There is great momentum within the fast food industry to improve conditions for farm workers but Burger King is refusing to join this movement.
Burger King’s actions are threatening to undo a hard-fought victory on behalf of exploited farm workers. I have just received this call to action from the Sojourner’s community:
For Christmas, Burger King is trying to make the country’s poorest workers even poorer.
A few months ago, we asked you to send messages to Burger King, asking them to join McDonald’s and Taco Bell in increasing the sub-poverty wages of Florida tomato pickers.
Almost 20,000 of you responded, but Burger King’s behavior has only gotten worse. Not only have they failed to heed the faith community’s call to improve wages and working conditions for tomato pickers – they’re working to undermine the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ existing agreements with other fast-food chains!
As Eric Schlosser, author of Fast-Food Nation, explained in the New York Times:
The migrant farm workers who harvest tomatoes in South Florida have one of the nation’s most backbreaking jobs. For 10 to 12 hours a day, they pick tomatoes by hand, earning a piece-rate of about 45 cents for every 32-pound bucket. During a typical day each migrant picks, carries, and unloads two tons of tomatoes.
Yum! Brands (owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC) and McDonald’s had agreed to pay a penny more per pound to increase wages by 70 percent per bucket, but this holiday season workers aren’t receiving the increase. Why? Because Burger King has refused to pay the extra penny and its refusal has encouraged tomato growers to cancel the deals already struck with Taco Bell and McDonald’s. This month the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, representing 90 percent of the state’s growers, announced that it will not allow any of its members to collect the extra penny for farm workers.
A Burger King spokesman responded, “Florida growers have a right to run their businesses how they see fit” – apparently, even if that means putting profits ahead of justice and dignity for their workers.
Meanwhile, on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs – a major shareholder in Burger King, with two representatives on the board of directors – is preparing to pay holiday bonuses. Last year, Goldman Sach’s top 12 executives received more than $200 million in bonuses – more than twice the annual earnings of 10,000 Florida tomato pickers.
As we read of such injustices in this time of Advent, we reflect upon God’s justice and mercy, as described in the words of Mary:
[God] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; [God] has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:52-53).
Advent reminds us that God intends well-being for all, not just some. We hope you’ll join us in taking action.
I encourage you to join me in responding to Sojourner’s call and send a message to Burger King.