When I was a young girl living in Jackson Michigan, we marched on picket lines against A&P and Farmer Jack grocery stores – they sold non-union grapes & lettuce which led to the suppression of wages for our nation’s farm workers. I spent my 13th birthday on a picket line with mom planning on getting arrested and it was all for a good cause. The people who helped get the food to our tables were working for near slave-wages, and even at that young age I knew it was wrong.
We don’t hear much about Caesar Chavez or the United Farm Workers any more, but there are many who struggle day in and day out in the fields, often picking 2 tons of tomatoes for Burger King suppliers in order to earn just $50 for a day’s labor.
It’s still wrong. This is a shout-out to ask you to help put pressure on Burger King – they need to follow McDonald’s lead and insure that their suppliers pay a fair wage to the people who labor to pick the food we eat each day.
Sojourners is helping with this effort, and just sent me an email about it...
Worse yet, modern-day slavery has reemerged in Florida's fields; since 1997, the U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted five slavery rings, freeing more than 1,000 workers. As a major buyer of Florida tomatoes, Burger King's purchasing practices place downward pressure on farm worker wages and put corporate profits before human dignity.
Burger King -- the second-largest hamburger chain in the world -- has so far refused to work with farm workers and heed the call of the faith community to improve wages and working conditions for those who pick their tomatoes.
Burger King is able to pool the buying power of thousands of restaurants to extract the lowest possible tomato prices from its suppliers. But these artificially cheap tomatoes come at a high cost for farm workers.
Send a letter to Burger King CEO John Chidsey to call on Burger King to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to ensure fair wages and human rights for farm workers in its tomato supply chain:
The AFL-CIO is involved in this effort and have the following on their web-log...
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) asks us to post this call to action for workers who pick tomatoes for the nation’s fast-food industry.
Just two months ago, farm workers from southwest Florida, represented by the CIW, won a groundbreaking agreement with fast-food giant McDonald’s to improve wages and working conditions in the fields that supply the world’s largest restaurant chain with its tomatoes.
The McDonald’s agreement builds and expands upon an earlier agreement won by the CIW and its allies after a four-year boycott of Taco Bell, part of the giant restaurant company Yum! Brands Inc., and sets a clear path to real rights and decent pay for farm workers.
Miami-based Burger King, the world’s second-largest burger chain, has rejected working with the CIW to improve farm worker wages and conditions, even though it recently announced an initiative to improve the living conditions of farm animals in its supply chain. Burger King still refuses to agree to the principles signed onto by Yum! and McDonald’s. Rather than pay tomato workers a decent wage and improve working conditions, Burger King claims it’s not possible to institute those same principles in their supply chain.
Instead, Burger King announced its own plan to address farm worker poverty. In a press statement earlier this year, Burger King declared:
We have spoken to CIW representatives about our interest in recruiting interested Immokalee workers into the Burger King system. We have offered to send Burger King Corporation recruiters to the area to speak with the CIW and with workers themselves about permanent, full-time employment at Burger King restaurants. Burger King Corporation offers ongoing professional training and advancement opportunities around the country for both entry-level and skilled employee jobs, and we are hopeful the CIW will accept our offer.
Rather than work with the CIW to support the principles of fair pay and decent conditions established in the Taco Bell agreement, Burger King has chosen to offer empty alternatives that show a complete disregard for the reality of human rights abuses in Florida’s fields and the company’s role in contributing to those abuses.
In response to the Burger King statement, CIW spokesperson Lucas Benitez said:
It’s simple. The farm workers who pick tomatoes for Burger King are among this country’s worst paid, least protected workers. They earn poverty wages, have no right to overtime pay even when they work 60 to 70 hour a week, and have no right to organize. And Burger King has an active hand in creating these unconscionable conditions, as its enormous volume purchasing power allows it to demand lower and lower prices for its tomatoes, resulting in lower and lower wages for already exploited workers.
Yet, when presented with the opportunity to take a stand against the exploitation of farm workers in their home state, Burger King executives refused. Incredibly they actually offered to address farm worker poverty by retraining tomato pickers to work in Burger King’s restaurants—eliminating farm worker poverty by eliminating farm workers—adding insult to injury with such an obviously unworkable, and frankly pretty ridiculous, idea.
For anyone wishing to contact Burger King directly (down in Miami), you can get more information on their Corporate Contact Page.
Burger King Holdings, Inc.
5505 Blue Lagoon Drive
Miami, FL 33126
Consumer relations line: (305) 378-3535
Telephone: (305) 378-7696
I also noticed the following below the email link for investor relations...
THIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS FOR INVESTOR AND SHAREHOLDER INQUIRIES ONLY. EMAIL MESSAGES CONCERNING OTHER TOPICS SUCH AS FRANCHISING AND CUSTOMER COMMENTS WILL NOT BE FORWARDED AND THEREFORE WILL NOT RECEIVE A RESPONSE.
Looks like they’ve been getting more than a few emails on this issue and are starting to feel the heat.
So there you have it – your marching orders for today. Nobody’s asking you to walk a picket line, get arrested or give up your Gallo Wine today. Just send an email or make a phone call to let Burger King know you won’t darken their doorstep until they ensure that the people who labor in the fields on their behalf are paid a fair wage.
And oh yeah - think about this when you grab your lunch today. Were the people who picked your food paid a fair wage?
For anyone who's not comfortable with the Sojourners email (they're a progressive Christian group after all) you can send a more generic email to Burger King throuth the AFL-CIO site.
(Crikey! The kid in the photo on that page could have been me out in front of the A&P 30+ years ago!)
Remember folks - we're all in this together. If Burger King can get away with this shit, then what's to stop the rest of us from getting screwed?
Send an email - make a call - help spread the word!
Don't bother using that Sojourners link to email Burger King - I got failure notifications on mine so I'm guessing the COWARDS at Burger King disabled the email accounts.
The AFL-CIO site just gives you a letter you can print, complete & fax (305-378-3516) so at this point I would send an email to their investor relations, or better still - just call the bastids.