Tuesday, October 9, 2007

MISSION: Burger King Protest Oct. 28

Join the Campaign for Fair Food as we tell the King: No Sweatshops in the Fields!!

On October 28, 2007 from 11am to 2pm, the local chapter of the Student Farmworker Alliance will be gathering in front of the Burger King restaurtant on the corner of Conway and 495 in Mission to demand that BK stop the BS and pay the farmworkers that pick their tomatoes a penny more per pound and start working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to ensure the protection of human rights in the fields.

Join us for a lunch time of raising awareness and our voices in solidarity with the CIW and the Campaign for Fair Food.

Read on for more information.

Tomato pickers in Florida’s fields face sweatshop conditions every day, including:

• Sub-poverty wages - Tomato pickers make, on average, $10,000/year;
• No raise in nearly 30 years - Pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate (roughly 45 cents per 32 lb. bucket) today as they were in 1980. As a result, workers have to pick over twice the number of buckets per hour today to earn minimum wage as they did in 1980. At today’s rate, workers have to pick nearly 2 ½ TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day;
• Denial of fundamental labor rights - Farmworkers in Florida have no right to overtime pay, even when working 60-70 hour weeks, and no right to organize or bargain collectively.

In the most extreme cases, workers face conditions that meet the legal standards for prosecution under modern-day slavery statutes. Federal Civil Rights officials have prosecuted five slavery operations, involving over 1,000 workers, in Florida's fields since 1997. One federal prosecutor called Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery,” while President Bush traveled to Tampa in 2004 to declare human trafficking “an affront to the defining promise of our country,” citing the case of a young Guatemalan woman “forced to work without pay in the tomato fields of central Florida.”

Role of the Fast-Food Industry in Farmworker Poverty –

Fast-food giants like Burger King and Subway play an active role in creating the unconscionable conditions in Florida’s fields. These massive chains are able to pool the buying power of thousands of restaurants and leverage that enormous power to demand ever-lower prices from their tomato suppliers. This in turn puts a strong downward pressure on farmworker wages, as tomato suppliers squeeze their diminishing profits from their workers through ever-lower wages in order to meet the volume discounts demanded by their fast-food clients. As such, farmworker poverty feeds fast-food profits.

Agreements with Taco Bell and McDonald’s Offer a Way Forward – In 2005, after a 4-year boycott, the CIW reached an historic agreement with Taco Bell to address the everdeepening poverty and degradation of farmworkers in Florida. On April 9th of this year, McDonald’s became the second major fast-food leader to work with the CIW to improve farmworker wages and working conditions.

The Taco Bell and McDonald’s agreements establish a model designed to enlist the immense market power of the fast-food giants to reverse the damage done over the past several decades to farmworker wages and to demand an end to human rights abuses, including modernday slavery, in the operations of their Florida tomato suppliers.

For these reasons and more, we join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their struggle for dignity in the fields.

John-Michael Torres
Senior, Sociology / Radio-Television-Film
University of Texas at Austin

Justice for the Mission, TX Community

Student Organizing at the University of Texas

Artistic, Powerful Designs on Sweat-Free Apparel