Immokalee workers step up battle against Burger King
Published Jan 2, 2008 11:27 PM
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization that represents
farmworkers in central Florida, on Dec. 23 extended their struggle to workers
at the Burger King restaurant in the Miami neighborhood of Aventura by holding
a picket there. On Nov. 30, the CIW had led a nine-mile-long march of 1,500
workers and their supporters down to the Burger King corporate offices in Miami
demanding a penny more per pound raise for the tomatoes they pick.
Immokalee farmworkers and supporters
march on the Burger King headquarters in Miami.
Photo: Andy Lin
The CIW has been waging fights against some of the largest U.S.-based fast food
corporations. These farmworkers, who mostly pick tomatoes, are fighting to
improve living and working conditions from what can only be called modern day
The first stop on the Nov. 30 march targeted Goldman Sachs, a large investment
firm that owns a big portion of the BK Corporation’s stock and has
executives sitting on BK Corporation’s board of directors. According to a
Dec. 20, 2006, article in the New York Times, Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and
chief executive of Goldman Sachs, was paid “a bonus of $53.4 million in
2006, the highest ever for a Wall Street chief executive” – most of
it coming off of the backs of farmworkers.
Most of the farmworkers receive 40-to-45 cents for each 32-pound bucket of
tomatoes that they pick. After a 10-hour workday, they would have to have
picked up to 2 tons each in order to make a little over $50, barely making the
minimum wage. These farmworkers have been working for the same rates since
their last pay raise in 1978.
Paying the extra penny would only cost the multibillionaire fast-food giant
$250,000 a year, yet they refuse to budge.
In 2005, the CIW led a national boycott against another fast food giant, Taco
Bell. Workers and students all over the country joined in solidarity in a
campaign known as “boot the bell” that included hunger strikes.
This struggle forced Taco Bell to the negotiating table.
McDonald’s also came to the negotiating table last April in the face of
possible protests or a boycott. Despite all of these advancements and the Nov.
30 historic nine-mile march, the Burger King bosses vow to resist the penny
raise and preserve the living conditions in Florida’s fields.
But all is not grim, students and workers from several unions including the
Teamsters, SEIU, CWA and UNITE HERE are joining the CIW in the fight to halt
the decline in wages. The struggle for a penny more will escalate and even
Burger King restaurant employees are joining the fight. At the Dec. 23 picket
at the local Burger King restaurant in mostly the white upscale Aventura
neighborhood, restaurant workers cheered the picketers and some even came out
and joined the demonstrators.
Apparently, the Burger King employees were first told that they were going to
be paid before Christmas, but on that Sunday they were told, “No
paychecks until after Christmas.” So as the protest started to build the
employees started to cheer from within the restaurant. When the chant,
“No more slaves! Pay a living wage!” started, one worker even came
outside to lead the chant.
The CIW is sending a full-time team back to Miami after the first of the year.
So there will be a lot more actions coming up both here and around the U.S.
The writer is from the Bolivarian Youth in Miami, who have participated in
the CIW actions.
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