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News :: Human Rights : Labor
Boston McDonald’s Hit by Protests Against Labor Abuse
28 Oct 2006
BOSTON, MA – A group of young protesters braved the pouring rain to demonstrated at 3 local McDonald’s branches in downtown Boston today, Oct. 28.

They were calling on fast-food giant McDonald’s to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to help establish real labor rights for the workers who pick tomatoes for McDonald’s suppliers. The young protesters, several of whom wore colorful and scary “Ronald McDonald” halloween masks, entered the fast-food stores and distributed hundreds of leaflets documenting sweatshop conditions and human rights abuses in the Florida fields where McDonald’s tomatoes are grown.
Specifically, the young protesters, along with the farmworkers from the CIW, are calling for:

• The right to a fair wage, after 25 years of sub-poverty wages and stagnant piece rates;

• The right for farmworkers to participate in the decisions that affect their lives, after decades of sweatshop conditions and egregious abuses in the fields;

• The right to a real code of conduct based on modern labor standards, after McDonald’s and its suppliers unilaterally imposed a hollow code of conduct comprised of minimal labor standards and suspect monitoring.

With strong support from students and youth, the CIW won its four-year national boycott against Taco Bell in March 2005. Currently, the CIW and its allies are seeking to extend these precedent-setting gains for farmworkers throughout the rest of the fast-food industry. Unfortunately, McDonald’s has taken a path that threatens to undercut the wage gains won by farmworkers and to keep these workers away from the table where decisions are made.

McDonald's is vulnerable to the opinions and actions of young consumers. The company spends over $1.5 billion annually promoting its brand and recently named 18- to 24-year-olds as its new marketing "sweet spot," according to Nation's Restaurant News (April 11, 2005).

Melody Gonzalez of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) explains, "Young people care deeply about human rights. If McDonald's refuses to work with the CIW for real labor reform in its supply chain, its marketing 'sweet spot' will soon become its sore spot."

Protester Michael Gould-Wartofsky of the Harvard Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) adds, “We will not accept this corporation, or any other, profiting from the poverty and exploitation of farmworkers. We want fair food, and we want it now.”

October 28 was a National Day of Action against McDonald’s, additional McDonald's protests were planned in 37 cities in 21 states, from Florida to California.

Student/Farmworker Alliance is a national network of youth and students in partnership with the CIW. SFA is a founding member of the Alliance for Fair Food, a rapidly expanding network of human rights, religious, student, labor, and grassroots organizations promoting principles and practices of socially responsible purchasing in the corporate food industry that advance and ensure the human rights of farmworkers at the bottom of corporate supply chains.

For more, visit

Photos by Jonathan McIntosh


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