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Tuesday, March 14, 2006 

Interfaith Worker Justice Calls-Out McDonalds

The Chicago based Interfaith Worker Justice has issued the following statement to McDonalds. Phase two of the Collation of Immokaleee Workers' struggle for justice in the fields is picking up steam. The full statement is below:

IWJ calls on McDonald's to Give Tomato pickers a Raise

As God worked to create the world, our religious traditions value those who do the world's work. The work of tomato pickers is among the most undervalued in our society: In South Florida, tomato pickers live in extreme poverty, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) continues to document cases of slavery in the fields.

Taco Bell and its parent company Yum! Brands nearly doubled wages for workers who pick their tomatoes by entering into an historic agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Under this agreement, Taco Bell pays one penny more per pound for their tomatoes, all of which is passed directly to workers. Interfaith Worker Justice calls on McDonald's and other fast food chains to follow Taco Bell's lead and work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to ensure tomato pickers in their supply chain receive fair wages and enjoy human rights in the fields.

Interfaith Worker Justice envisions a nation where all workers enjoy the rights to:

* Wages, health care and pensions that allow workers to raise families and retire with dignity;

* Safe working conditions;

* Organize and bargain collectively without harassment, intimidation or retaliation;

* Equal protection under labor law - regardless of immigration status - and an end to the practice of pitting immigrant and U.S. born workers against one another;

* Fair and just participation in the global economy that promotes the welfare of both domestic and foreign workers.

The CIW organizes tomato pickers to win these basic rights. The CIW is led by tomato pickers and is internationally recognized for its groundbreaking work to end slavery in the fields and help workers' win better wages and conditions. CIW is working successfully with Yum Brands to raise workers' wages significantly and quickly. Any "solution" that leaves out the CIW, which speaks for the organized tomato pickers in the Immokalee region, is inadequate. Workers should be part of shaping any solution that affects their lives and their livelihoods.

Instead of partnering with the worker-led CIW, McDonald's is partnering with Socially Accountable Farm Employers (SAFE) to monitor conditions in the fields. SAFE is a grower-led organization that merely pledges to follow existing labor laws, laws that allow workers to toil in extreme poverty and unsafe conditions. No worker-led organizations are partners in this initiative. Close examination of SAFE's website reveals that the organization purported to represent the interests of tomato pickers is the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA), a child-care agency that receives regular and generous donations from the growers association.

Instead of trusting growers to monitor themselves, McDonald's should move quickly to partner with the worker-led CIW in a proven process to improve wages and conditions for tomato pickers. McDonald's recent
decision to serve fair trade coffee is commendable, and IWJ calls on McDonald's to extend their support of fair trade to include just wages for tomato pickers via a partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.


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