Immokalee Workers and McDonalds reach agreement

04/09/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Two years after it achieved a milestone by having Taco Bell agree to pay them a penny more per pound, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers achieved another victory today with the announcement that they had reached a similar agreement with McDonalds.

 Beginning with the 2007 growing season, the fast food giant has agreed to start paying 1 penny more per pound for Florida tomatoes supplied to its U.S. restaurants.  The increase will be paid directly to farmworkers harvesting tomatoes purchased by McDonald’s Greg Asbed is with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  He said that farmworkers today get in Florida make about 1.3 cents per pound for a bucket – so a penny more per pound is the equivalent of a 71% raise (roll tape#1 o.q.”under the field”) The agreement with McDonalds comes just as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers had begun their McDonalds Truth Tour” , with scheduled appearances slated for this Friday and Saturday just outside the company’s corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago. Farmworkers had begun targeting McDonalds in the past 2 years, after a 4 year battle to get Yum Brands!, the corporate owner of Taco Bell, to pay the workers an extra penny per pound reached fruition. Bill Whitman is a spokesman for McDonalds.  Without being too specific, he acknowledged that such an agreement only came about after detailed discussions (roll tape#2 o.q.”that will continue”) The agreement was hailed by former President Jimmy Carter. Representatives from the Carter Center in Atlanta worked with both groups in producing the deal.  Also as part of the agreement is that the farmworkers and McDonalds’s produce suppliers will work together to develop a new code of conduct for Florida tomato growers as well as increase farmworker participation in monitoring supplier compliance. The Coalition’s Greg Aspic says this will be a way to monitor conditions in the field and allow for investigating workers complaints of abuse  (roll tape#3 o.q.”as well”) Bill Whitman with McDonalds (roll tape#4 o.q.”more than 15 years”) 

According to the Coalition of Immokalee workers, most tomato pickers still receive roughly the same pay as in 1978 — 40 to 45 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. The penny per pound increase would raise the pay rate to 77 cents, providing the workers a 71-percent increase in wages.

 In their press release, The Coalition’s Lucan Benitez calls the agreement an important step toward a world where farmworkers can enjoy a fair wage and humane working conditions in exchange for the hard and essential work that they do every day.(roll tape#5 o.q.”in the fast food industry”) For more information, you can go to the web at ciw-online.org

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