The Trouble With Tomatoes

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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