Landmark Agreement with Taco Bell Marks Important Victory for US Farmworkers

By Elizabeth Stevens

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and fast-food industry leader Taco Bell Corporation, a division of Yum! Brands, Inc., have announced a historic agreement that will help alleviate poverty among thousands of farmworkers.  Since 1993, CIW has advocated for the tomato pickers of Immokalee, Florida, many of whom have been forced into a state of modern-day slavery.  Taco Bell sources tomatoes from the Immokalee area.

 The agreement was reached after several years of negotiations and a boycott organized by CIW against Taco Bell.  The two groups have agreed to the following terms, ending CIW’s three-year boycott:

  • Tomato pickers are guaranteed an additional penny per pound of tomatoes—an increase that will double their wages;
  • Taco Bell will only purchase tomatoes from growers that are paying the extra penny per pound;
  • Growers will be contractually bound to pay the extra penny per pound;
  • CIW and Yum! Brands, Inc., have jointly produced a list of eligible growers and will work together to expand this list;
  • Preference will be given to growers that have better labor practices than set forth by current agricultural labor standards, emphasizing the need for labor law reform;
    >Taco Bell and Yum! Brands, Inc., will work with CIW to enforce contracts and will suspend them when violations are found;<li>
  • and Yum! Brands, Inc., will take a lead in lobbying the state of Florida for critical labor law reform. 

As a partner in Oxfam America’s Make Trade Fair campaign, CIW has made great strides in bringing to light injustices in the workforce, particularly those among tomato pickers in Immokalee.

 “CIW has accomplished a crucial first step in creating a more equitable and just supply chain,” stated Molly Anderson, Director for Oxfam America’s US Regional Office.  “The agreement between Yum! Brands, Inc., and CIW will provide corporations and consumers with continued product supply while offering better wages to farmworkers, helping to lift them out of devastating poverty.”

 In a statement released today, Lucas Benitez, CIW Co-Director, said, “We are laying the groundwork for real change, both in the concrete conditions of farmworkers’ everyday lives and in the market itself, where this agreement is establishing important new standards of social responsibility.” 

“If we as farmworkers are to one day indeed enjoy equal rights, the same rights all other workers in this country are guaranteed, this agreement must only be a beginning,” Benitez continued.  “To make those rights truly universal, other leaders of the fast-food industry and the supermarket industry must join us on this path toward social responsibility.”

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