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News ::
September Taco Bell Caravan/Action!
08 Sep 2001
IMMOKALEE, FL -- Beginning on September 13, 2001, a caravan of migrant workers, college students and activists will embark on a ten-city, cross-country bus tour to raise awareness about the National Taco Bell Boycott and the sweatshop conditions faced by migrant farmworkers in America's fields. The tour will culminate with demonstrations in Los Angeles, California on September 23 and at Taco Bell corporate headquarters in Irvine, CA on September 24, confirmed speakers include Tom Morello from "Rage Against the Machine". The tour comes on the heels of five months of protests at Taco Bell restaurants across the country, with nearly 100 actions in states including Alabama, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

In each city along the "Taco Bell Truth Tour", the workers will be welcomed by community activists and will participate in teach-ins, demonstrations in front of local Taco Bells, and major community rallies. The tour, and in particular the LA and Irvine protests, will be the first major public actions to cast light on the multi-billion dollar fast food industry's ties to the sweatshop-like conditions faced by farmworkers in America's fields.

"The tomatoes Taco Bell buys for its tacos and Chalupa's are produced in what can only be described as sweatshop conditions," said Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, one of the tour's organizers. "Twenty years of picking at sub-poverty wages, no right to overtime pay, no right to organize or join a union, no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid holidays or vacation, and no pension is a national disgrace."

Key dates in for the cross-country "Taco Bell Truth Tour":
September 13: Tour Kick-Off in Tampa
September 23: Los Angeles, California
September 24: Irvine, California, TACO BELL HEADQUARTERS
September 28: Washington, DC (organized outside of the Truth Tour)

Other stops and rallies on "Truth Tour":
September 15: Atlanta, GA
September 16: Chicago, IL
September 17: Madison, WI
September 19: Denver, CO
September 21: San Francisco, CA
September 22: Fresno, CA

HISTORY: Since 1997, tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida's largest farmworker community, have been organizing for the right to join in talks with the state's corporate tomato growers to find ways to improve farm labor conditions and raise the crop picking-piece rate. Despite signature drives, community-wide work stoppages, marches, and a 30-day hunger strike by six members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) -- ultimately ended by the intervention of former President Jimmy Carter -- the growers continue to refuse to meet with farm worker representatives and have only marginally raised wages.

When workers discovered that Taco Bell is a major buyer of the tomatoes they pick, they informed company executives in January, 2000 of the deplorable wages and working conditions in Florida's fields and requested a meeting to discuss possible solutions. To date, despite numerous pleas from workers and growing public pressure, Taco Bell has refused to meet with CIW representatives.

DEMAND: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is calling on Taco Bell to use its considerable leverage as a major buyer of Florida tomatoes to help bring about real changes in the wages and working conditions of the farmworkers who pick those tomatoes. Specifically, farmworkers are demanding that Taco Bell open a meaningful, three-part dialogue -- bringing together representatives of Taco Bell, their tomato suppliers, and representatives of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers -- to discuss mutually-beneficial solutions to the problems farmworkers face in Florida's fields.

Possible solutions include: a proposal that Taco Bell increase the price it pays per pound of tomatoes by 1 cent, with the increase to be passed on, in whole, to the pickers. (Pickers generally receive between 1.2 - 1.5 cents per pound today. A penny per pound increase could nearly double pickers' wages, effectively making up for the decline in the real piece rate due to inflation since 1980.) Taco Bell, tomato industry, and worker representatives could also examine and draft a Code of Conduct, defining the basic wage and labor standards to be required of all Taco Bell tomato suppliers.

Workers will not be satisfied until substantive dialogue with Taco Bell and their employers is established, and measurable progress in the area of wages and working conditions is made.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Lucas Benitez or Romeo Ramirez, Coalition of Immokalee Workers:
(941)657-8311 or (941) 821-5481
Brian Payne, Student/Farmworker Alliance: (941) 867-9160
Los Angeles/Irvine Action, Brian Montes (909)317-7454;
LA Media/Info Line: (323)291-2475

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