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News ::
Low-wage farmworkers bring Taco Bell boycott to Boston (english)
01 Oct 2002
Florida Farmworkers Visit Boston to Protest Low Wages, Poor Conditions
“Boycott Taco Bell” campaign targets Boston University franchise

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 30, 2002
Contact: Francisca Cortez, Max Perez, (941) 292-3064 or (239) 657-8311



Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the farm worker organization spearheading the national boycott of Taco Bell, will embark on a two-week tour to expose the truth about Taco Bell’s relationship to the sweatshop-like conditions in Florida's fields.

From October 9 to 11, they will be welcomed by labor, student, and religious groups in Boston. Highlights include:

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 9, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Harvard University:
Howard Zinn, author of The People’s History of the United States, puts the workers’ struggle into historical perspective, followed by CIW presentation entitled “Farm worker poverty, fast-food profits, and the hope for a ‘fair food’ future.” (Science Center, Lecture Hall C)

FRIDAY OCTOBER 11, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Boston University:

Immokalee farm workers are also available for interviews while in Boston. To set up an interview in advance, please contact Betsy Leondar-Wright at United for a Fair Economy, 617-423-2148x13. From October 9 to 11, for media availability of the Immokalee workers during their Boston visit, please call Tomás Aguilar of UFE at 617-216-4410

In Immokalee, Florida, farm workers who pick tomatoes for Taco Bell are among the worst paid, least protected workers in the country. Taco Bell receives cheap, high-quality US tomatoes – boosting its bottom line – thanks to the hard-working Florida farm workers who toil in sweatshop conditions.

These tomato pickers work for starvation wages with absolutely no benefits or job security, no overtime pay, no right to organize without fear of retaliation, and, in the most extreme cases, under conditions of modern-day slavery.

"We as farm workers are tired of subsidizing Taco Bell's profits with our poverty. We are calling for this boycott as a means to win back what is rightfully ours – a fair wage and respect for the hard and dangerous work we do," said Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “Taco Bell is a multinational corporation with more than $5 billion in annual sales. To a significant extent, Taco Bell's tremendous global revenues are based on cheap ingredients for the food they sell, including cheap tomatoes picked by farmworkers in Florida paid sub-poverty wages.”


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.

Taco Bell's initial response to the CIW's request was to declare that they would "not get involved in the labor disputes of their suppliers." Since the launch of the boycott in May, 2001, however, Taco Bell has sent a letter to one of its biggest tomato suppliers asking the company to address the CIW's complaints.

Furthermore, Taco Bell executives met with CIW representatives following a march of 2,000 farmworkers and their supporters to Taco Bell's corporate headquarters on March 11 of this year. The march was the culmination of an historic, cross country caravan – the "Taco Bell Truth Tour" – in which over 100 farmworkers and students joined together in a 17-day, 15-city tour, bringing unprecedented public attention to Taco Bell's ties to the sweatshop conditions in Florida's fields (March 1 to 17, 2002).

Still, Taco Bell has failed to take the steps that would help bring concrete change to the lives of the men and women who pick their tomatoes, and therefore the boycott is still in effect.

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