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Sept 23-24 Taco Bell Action! Los Angeles, Irvine

by Lee Siu Hin Friday, Aug. 31, 2001 at 12:58 AM (323)291-2475



August, 28, 2001





* Lucas Benitez or Romeo Ramirez, Coalition of Immokalee Workers:

(941)657-8311 or (941) 821-5481

* Brian Payne, Student/Farmworker Alliance: (941) 867-9160

* Los Angeles/Irvine Action, Brian Montes: (213)380-3929;

* LA Media/Info Line: (323)291-2475

* LA Taco Bell Welcome Center (Sep 23-25): 4167 S. Normandie Ave., Los Angeles


IMMOKALEE, FL -- Beginning on September 13, 2001, a caravan of migrant

workers, college students and activists will embark on a ten-city,

cross-country bus tour to raise awareness about the National Taco Bell

Boycott and the sweatshop conditions faced by migrant farmworkers in

America's fields. The tour will culminate with demonstrations in Los

Angeles, California on September 23 and at Taco Bell corporate headquarters

in Irvine, CA on September 24, confirmed speakers include Tony Morello from

Rage Against the Machine. The tour comes on the heels of five months of

protests at Taco Bell restaurants across the country, with nearly 100 actions

in states including Alabama, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

In each city along the "Taco Bell Truth Tour", the workers will be welcomed

by community activists and will participate in teach-ins, demonstrations in

front of local Taco Bells, and major community rallies. The tour, and in

particular the LA and Irvine protests, will be the first major public actions

to cast light on the multi-billion dollar fast food industry's ties to the

sweatshop-like conditions faced by farmworkers in America's fields.

"The tomatoes Taco Bell buys for its tacos and Chalupa's are produced in what

can only be described as sweatshop conditions," said Lucas Benitez of the

Coalition of Immokalee Workers, one of the tour's organizers. "Twenty years

of picking at sub-poverty wages, no right to overtime pay, no right to

organize or join a union, no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid

holidays or vacation, and no pension is a national disgrace."

Key dates in for the cross-country "Taco Bell Truth Tour":

September 13: Tour Kick-Off in Tampa

September 23: Los Angeles, California

September 24: Irvine, California, TACO BELL HEADQUARTERS

September 28: Washington, DC (organized outside of the Truth Tour)

Other stops and rallies on "Truth Tour":

September 15: Atlanta, GA

September 16: Chicago, IL

September 17: Madison, WI

September 19: Denver, CO

September 21: San Francisco, CA

September 22: Fresno, CA

HISTORY: Since 1997, tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida's largest

farmworker community, have been organizing for the right to join in talks

with the state's corporate tomato growers to find ways to improve farm labor

conditions and raise the crop picking-piece rate. Despite signature drives,

community-wide work stoppages, marches, and a 30-day hunger strike by six

members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) -- ultimately ended by

the intervention of former President Jimmy Carter -- the growers continue to

refuse to meet with farm worker representatives and have only marginally

raised wages.

When workers discovered that Taco Bell is a major buyer of the tomatoes they

pick, they informed company executives in January, 2000 of the deplorable

wages and working conditions in Florida's fields and requested a meeting to

discuss possible solutions. To date, despite numerous pleas from workers and

growing public pressure, Taco Bell has refused to meet with CIW


DEMAND: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is calling on Taco Bell to use

its considerable leverage as a major buyer of Florida tomatoes to help bring

about real changes in the wages and working conditions of the farmworkers who

pick those tomatoes. Specifically, farmworkers are demanding that Taco Bell

open a meaningful, three-part dialogue -- bringing together representatives

of Taco Bell, their tomato suppliers, and representatives of the Coalition of

Immokalee Workers -- to discuss mutually-beneficial solutions to the problems

farmworkers face in Florida's fields.

Possible solutions include: a proposal that Taco Bell increase the price it

pays per pound of tomatoes by 1 cent, with the increase to be passed on, in

whole, to the pickers. (Pickers generally receive between 1.2 - 1.5 cents per

pound today. A penny per pound increase could nearly double pickers' wages,

effectively making up for the decline in the real piece rate due to inflation

since 1980.) Taco Bell, tomato industry, and worker representatives could

also examine and draft a Code of Conduct, defining the basic wage and labor

standards to be required of all Taco Bell tomato suppliers.

Workers will not be satisfied until substantive dialogue with Taco Bell and

their employers is established, and measurable progress in the area of wages

and working conditions is made.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers

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