The Trouble With Tomatoes


| April 24, 2002


The Trouble With Tomatoes

A 26-year-old farmworker is taking on Taco Bell in a boycott aimed at the fast food chain's partnership with an exploitative tomato producer. Mica Rosenberg writes in Tolerance.org that Lucas Benitez, the founder of the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), has launched a nationwide protest of the horrible working conditions perpetuated by the Six L's Packing Company, one of the nation's largest distributors of tomatoes.

Rosenberg recounts the long history of unfair labor practices and poverty-level wages the Immokalee farmworkers have suffered, a situation that continues today. 'Workers who plant, cultivate and harvest the state's tomatoes are paid 40 to 45 cents for every thirty-two-pound bucket they pick, a wage that has been virtually stagnant for the past 20 years,' writes Rosenberg. 'According to a recent National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), the median personal income for farmworkers is only $5,000 to $7,500 a year.'

Inspired by the public attention gained by the Nike sweatshops campaign, Benitez started his Taco Bell Truth Tour in March, when demonstrators travelled across 15 cities to Taco Bell's corporate headquarters to bring these conditions to the attention of Taco Bell representatives. The CIW has demanded that Six L's and Taco Bell's tomato suppliers increase farmworkers' wages. Indeed, if Taco Bell would pay just a penny more per bushel of tomatoes, farmworker's standard of living would be signficantly increased.
--Julie Madsen
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