Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
“The consumer boycott is the only open door in the dark corridor of nothingness down which farmworkers have had to walk for many years. It is a gate of hope through which they expect to find the sunlight of a better life for themselves and their families” (Cesar Chavez)
On March 8, after nearly four years of struggle and amidst the momentum of the 2005 Taco Bell Truth Tour, farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) scored a decisive victory in their national boycott of Taco Bell. Caving under the weight of an intense grassroots campaign, the fast-food giant has agreed to work with the Florida-based farmworker organization to improve the wages and working conditions of farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry by paying a penny-per-pound surcharge demanded by the workers. The farmworkers’ sub-poverty wages have been stagnant and declining in real terms since 1978.
“This is an important victory for farmworkers, one that establishes a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry and makes an immediate material change in the lives of workers. This sends a clear challenge to other industry leaders,” said Lucas Benitez, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The CIW’s precedent-setting victory is also an important step forward for student/youth, global justice, and poor peoples’ movements throughout the U.S. who have worked in solidarity with the farmworkers, forcing the world’s largest restaurant corporation (Yum! Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company) to accept responsibility for conditions in its supply chain.
As planned, farmworkers and their allies will gather in Louisville, KY on March 11th and 12th to celebrate the victory and chart the next steps in the movement to end sweatshops in the fields. The battle is won; the war continues.
Updates from 2005 Taco Bell Truth Tour
Daily Video Diaries:
East Leg: One | Two | Three | Four & Five | Six & Seven
West Leg: One | Two, Three & Four | Five
Segment on Democracy Now! | Victory News Broken to ATXers
Audio: Tour Departs from Immokalee (.mp3) | West leg hits Tally (.mp3) | Cleveland IMC Radio: Interview with farmworker | CIW Teach-in Cleveland, OH | Connections b/w Civil Rights and Boycott | Peace Talks | Interview with Fernando Suarez del Solar (english/español) | Press Conference Announcing End of Boycott | Victory Announcement at Our World; Our Rights conference
Boycott Taco Bell Song: “Hunger Days” by JG & Havikenhayes with Over the Counter Intelligence
External Articles: Values Voters, Desperate Housewives and Sweatshop Tacos | ‘Truth Tour’ Highlights Poverty Wages | Farm Workers in America: a History of Struggle
Taco Bell – a division of Yum! Brands Inc. – announced today that it will fund a penny per pound “pass-through” with its suppliers of Florida tomatoes, and will undertake joint efforts with the CIW on several fronts to improve working conditions in Florida’s tomato fields. For its part, the CIW has agreed to end its four-year boycott of Taco Bell, saying that the agreement “sets a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry.”
Taco Bell has recently secured an agreement with several of its tomato-grower suppliers, who employ the farmworkers, to pass-through the company-funded equivalent of one-cent per pound directly to the workers.
“Systemic change to ensure human rights for farmworkers is long-overdue. Taco Bell has now taken an important leadership role by securing the penny per pound pass-through from its tomato suppliers, and by the other efforts it has committed to undertake to help win equal rights for farmworkers,” Benitez added. “But our work together is not done. Now we must convince other companies that they have the power to change the way they do business and the way workers are treated.”
The victory comes after several years of organizing not only by farmworkers, but also by young people and students across the country. Students at over 22 high schools and colleges – including UCLA, University of Notre Dame, University of Chicago, and many more – organized to prevent or remove Taco Bell restaurants from their campuses to support the boycott. Building on the work of preceding anti-sweatshop and divestment movements, “Boot the Bell” was one of the fastest-growing campaigns for economic justice on U.S. campuses. Taco Bell’s target market is 18-to-24 year-olds, who the company has referred to as “The New Hedonism Generation” in its marketing research.
CIW is a membership-led organization of agricultural workers based in Immokalee, Florida, that seeks justice for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international labor standards. Among its accomplishments, the CIW has aided in the prosecution of five slavery operations by the Department of Justice and the liberation of over 1,000 workers. The CIW uses creative methods to educate consumers about human rights abuses in the U.S. agriculture industry, corporate social responsibility, and how consumers can help workers realize their social change goals.
Related stories on Austin IMC:
Farm Workers in America: a History of Struggle