Lying Media Bastards

March 9, 2005

And Sometimes You Win

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.

Posted by Jake on March 9, 2005 4:21 pm

3 Comments »

  1. Thanks for your coverage of this. This was indeed a great victory for the workers of Florida. As a college student here in Tampa I was involved in helping to organize the boycott on my campus. I think that this victory need not be overlooked by activists across the country. Imagine country-wide minimum wage increases spurned by every high school kid in America refusing to close at Mcdonalds, and just on the weekends. I think our influence is often overlooked, but when you toss the shear numbers of bodies of generation Xers onto the gears of the corporate-complex there will always be impact.
    Hit `em where it hurts, in the taco.

    Comment by Danny — March 10, 2005 @ 7:30 am

  2. Maybe my two year ban on Taco-Bell is over…no wait arent they still owned by Pepsi…if so damn. Ive been yearning for a mexican pizza.

    Great news I have to pass it along.

    Comment by Brian/Buddy — March 10, 2005 @ 9:01 am

  3. I used to work on some of the local advertising for Taco Bell. They had a policy that none of their food could ever be referred to as “Mexican Food” in their advertising. After that, I came up the slogan “American food in Mexican food shapes”. Nobody seemed to like it.

    Comment by nobody cares — March 12, 2005 @ 6:29 am

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