The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Taco Bell Agrees to Meet All Immokalee Worker Demands

by Andrew Stelzer

In a remarkable victory, a nearly four-year struggle against low pay and terrible working conditions culminates in a major fast food chain caving to the demands of tomato-pickers

Mar. 9, 2005 – After an almost four-year boycott, a hunger strike, and several bus tours promoting their cause, a farmworker’s organization based in southern Florida declared a victory yesterday in its battle to improve working conditions for Taco Bell’s tomato pickers. In an unusual conclusion to the prolonged campaign, Taco Bell and its parent company, Yum! Brands, agreed to all of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ demands.

The workers will receive a penny-per-pound raise for the tomatoes they pick -- nearly double their current pay. Taco Bell says it will terminate contracts with subcontractors who fail to implement the raise.

The fast food chain also agreed to institute a code of conduct with its growers, explicitly prohibiting human rights violations. In addition, labor representatives will now be allowed to participate in discussions between Yum! Brands and the growers, allowing the farmworkers to have input on future changes to their working conditions.

Coalition activist Gerardo Reyes Chavez attributed the boycott’s apparent success to public outrage over the working conditions and poverty wages of the farmworkers who labor in Florida’s tomato fields. Hundreds of student groups and dozens of religious organizations allied themselves with the farmworkers during the boycott.

"With this victory we are sending a very strong message," Reyes told The NewStandard. "Yum Brands and Taco Bell have realized that it’s time to do business in a different way."

In a joint press release, Taco Bell representatives said they will be working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to push for industry-wide improvements in wages and working conditions for farmworkers. Taco Bell President Emil Brolick said, "We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership."

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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Andrew Stelzer is a contributing journalist.

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