Monday, December 24, 2007

Florida tomato workers who got help from Yum! and McDonald's get back of hand from Burger KIng

"A group of farmers who persuaded McDonald’s and Taco Bell to have their tomato suppliers pay their pickers more have seen their effort stall as Burger King has refused to do the same," reports The New York Times. "The main group of Florida tomato growers — calling the farmworkers’ tactics 'un-American' — has threatened a $100,000 fine against growers that cooperate with McDonald’s or Yum! Brands, the parent of Taco Bell, to pay their pickers more."

Lucas Benitez, a co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, told reporter Steven Greenhouse, "The only way you can describe this industry is the way it was described 40 years ago: It’s a harvest of shame." The vice president for food safety and regulatory compliance at Burger King, Steve Grover, said, "We’re being asked to do something that we have legal questions about. We want to find a way to make sure that workers are protected and receive a decent wage."

The workers wanted Burger King to follow the lead of McDonald's and Yum! and pay pickers 77 cents, up from 45 cents, for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes. "A bigger obstacle to the coalition’s efforts is the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a cooperative representing 90 percent of the state’s growers," Greenhouse reports. "It has threatened large 'noncompliance penalties' for any growers that share information about wages or tonnage picked with third parties like McDonald’s. Florida grows 85 percent of the nation’s winter tomatoes." (Read more)

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