Taking on the King
On November 30, a few hundred farmworkers and their supporters marched from Goldman Sachs in downtown Miami to Burger King corporate headquarters.
On November 30, a few hundred farmworkers and their supporters marched from Goldman Sachs in downtown Miami to Burger King corporate headquarters. The protest, organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, aimed to put pressure on Burger King to pay tomato pickers a penny more per pound.
Burger King says it is willing to negotiate a code of conduct with suppliers but says it cannot directly pay the workers, nor set wages for its vendors.
In the November 29 New York Times, Eric Schlosser points out how greedy Burger King is behaving: “The prominent role that Burger King has played in rescinding the pay raise offers a spectacle of yuletide greed worthy of Charles Dickens. Burger King has justified its behavior by claiming that it has no control over the labor practices of its suppliers. ‘Florida growers have a right to run their businesses how they see fit,’ a Burger King spokesman told The St. Petersburg Times. Yet the company has adopted a far more activist approach when the issue is the well-being of livestock. In March, Burger King announced strict new rules on how its meatpacking suppliers should treat chickens and hogs. As for human rights abuses, Burger King has suggested that if the poor farm workers of southern Florida need more money, they should apply for jobs at its restaurants.”
Schlosser asks why firms like Goldman Sachs that invest in Burger King can't afford a penny a pound increase: "In 2006, the bonuses of the top 12 Goldman Sachs executives exceeded $200 million more than twice as much money as all of the roughly 10,000 tomato pickers in southern Florida earned that year."
The CIW says Burger King is engaged in an aggressive public relations efforts to deny the reality of farmworker poverty and exploitation. For example, CEO John Chidsey, during an October 3rd speech to his alma mater, Davidson College, characterized farmworker poverty as a "myth."
In mid-November, CIW members traveled to London to receive the 2007 Anti-Slavery International Award. The award is presented annually by Anti-Slavery International, a human rights organization. ASI singled out the CIW for "their exceptional contribution towards tackling modern-day slavery in the United States agricultural industry." In the past ten years, the Justice Department has prosecuted half a dozen cases of slavery among farm workers in Florida.
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