Got some great news today.
After a four-year struggle, the Taco Bell Boycott is over, and the farmworkers have won.
Long story short, Taco Bell gets all its tomatoes from a produce company in Immokalee, Florida. The workers who pick the tomatoes have been making 40 cents for every 32-pound bucket they fill– sub-poverty wages. And due to laws I’ve never understood, the farmworkers are legally barred from forming a union, so they had to try a different strategy.
Their strategy to earn a living wage was to encourage a boycott of Taco Bell, in hopes that the corporation would in turn pressure the farmworkers’ direct employer to pay them better. However under this strategy, Taco Bell had complete– and justified– deniability. “We’re not underpaying these farmers, we’re not their boss” was a perfect deflection, and a true statement, one that I feared that Taco Bell would use forever. And at the same time, I couldn’t think of many more tactics the farmers could use to achieve their ends.
And then today, I discovered that Taco Bell had agreed to pay one extra penny per pound of tomatoes, to go directly to the workers, and the company has also agreed to try to help improve working conditions for the farmworkers– which is what the farmworkers have been asking for all along. That one penny almost doubles the farmworkers pay. And even if Taco Bell passes 100% of that expense on to their customers, that’s probably less than a tenth of a cent per item. I imagine that most consumers would be willing to make that sacrifice so that a few thousand farmers can feed their families.
As I am a cynic, I am torn between celebration and suspicion. I will certainly be keeping an eye on the restaurant giant for any signs that they are breaking their agreement.
This is a great success, but it was not easy. This campaign was four years of massive effort by the farmworkers, labor unions, students, muckrakers, musicians, writers, actors, religious groups, and average concerned citizens. My deepest congratulations to the Immokalee workers and all their allies. Sí, se puede.
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