April 09, 2007: CIW, McDonald's, and their Suppliers Reach Agreement to improve Farmworkers Wages and Working Conditions

Publish Date: 
Friday, August 3, 2012

The Coalition of Immokalee workers (CIW) is a community-based worker organization with members largely from Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida, United States of America. The organization was set up  to build strength as a community and develop their skills in community education and organization.

In Immokalee, the farm workers plant, grow, and pick, tomatoes in large quantities which are mostly sold to big fast foods companies, who purchase tremendous volume of fruits and vegetables for their sandwiches, salads and other businesses,  whereas the workers who pick them are low income earners who continue to suffer and live in abject poverty.

 “Farmworkers continue to be some of the most exploited and impoverished workers in the United States. – Workers have to pick more than two tons of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage. They receive no overtime pay, no benefits, and have no right to organize in order to improve these conditions”

Due to this problem, the community workers decided to fight for their fundamental human rights. This led to series of general strikes, protest marches, and campaigns, which translated into wide raises for them and track record of real successes.

 In 2001, the coalition launched the first ever farmworker boycott of a major fast food company-the National Boycott of Taco-Bell (a fast- food restaurant chain, in United States of America) calling on all fast food giant such as McDonalds, Burger king, Subway and Wendy to take responsibilities for human rights abuse in the fields where tomato is grown. This gained broad student, religious, labour and community support.

As a result of the pressure against gross workers rights violations, in March 2005, Taco Bell agreed to meet all demands to improve wages and working conditions of Florida tomato pickers in its supply chain. Following this victory, the network of allies that helped carry out the campaign consolidated to form the Alliance for Fair Food gave warning to all fast food industries that the campaign would not stop at Taco Bell.

 In addition, on Monday, April 9, 2007, following a two year battle with the largest food chain in the world, McDonalds,  the campaign for fair food recorded another success with the announcement of the landmark agreement between McDonalds, CIW, and its suppliers which not only met the standards set in the Taco Bell agreement but also to develop an industry –wide third party mechanism for monitoring conditions in the fields of investigating abuses held at the 2007 truth tour in Atlanta, Florida.

The agreement guarantees that:

  1. A penny more per pound to workers harvesting tomatoes for McDonald's;
  2. A stronger code of conduct based on the principle of worker participation;
  3. And a collaborative effort to develop a third party mechanism for monitoring conditions in the fields and investigating workers' complaints of abuse.

See the full text of the joint press release issues by CIW (and photos) at their website on the top link