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Report from Imokalee

by Scott Sink Saturday, Jan. 26, 2002 at 10:32 AM

1-24-02 -- A report back from one of the Taco Bell Boycott Committee activists. The activists went to pick tomatoes.

1-24-02 Report from Immokalee, Florida: By Scott Sink (OC Boycott Taco Bell


My name is Scott Sink from the Orange County Committee of the Taco Bell

Boycott campaign. Siu Hin, Elizabeth Gotez and I went on a trip to Immokalee

to meet with the CIW [Taco Bell Headquarters located in Irvine, Orange

County, CA, Scott will be one of the OC Boycott TB memeber to help to

organize the March 11 protest]

The first night we got here, we went to sleep early in order to get up

before the crack of dawn to go pick tomatoes. We went to the store where all

the buses come to pick up the workers. Since we picked up Liz (from LA) at

the Tampa airport, there were three of us: Me, Siu Hin and her. Needless to

say, we stuck out in the crowd. The contractors obviously knew who we were.

(For one thing, they are Max's (from the CIW) cousins.) We talked to the

workers. Many of them hadn't heard of the CIW, and many had. They were pretty

curious who were, and what we were doing. We had some interesting dialogue

with the other tomato pickers. We did some interviews, and took some

pictures. All the while, the contractors were watching us and eavesdropping

on us.

We had so much time to sit and chat because we load up the trucks, and then

they leave, and you can wait for an hour, two, maybe three (who knows?) until

another truck comes. They just leave us sitting around like machinery or raw

materials, irregardless of how many buckets we hope to fill. We picked cherry

tomatoes, not the roma tomatoes that Taco Bell buys. We pick them in 20 lb

buckets, and have to wait until the truck comes back in order to refill them.

Some workers take plastic bags with them to fill so they can fill those up

while they're waiting.

The next day, we overslept, so we didn't get to work in the fields. However,

that night, we attended the CIW general meeting.

Today, we went out to pick tomatoes again. We talked to the contractor, and

he told us that we get .50 for every bucket of tomatoes. However, he has to

give us state minimum wages, which is an hour. If the amount per bucket

exceeds the amount you would make at minimum wage, then they pay you the

highest amount. However, this contractor doesn't give any receipts for what

you pick. We got a ticket for every bucket, and they wrote the number of

tickets down at the end of the day next to our name. Nevertheless, reports of

workers getting ripped off is very common, since many workers don't have any

way to prove that they were ripped off. Furthermore, the contractor went out

of his way to prove to us how fair his business was. For example, he helped

fill up our buckets when we were out in the fields. Also, he talked on his

cell phone in English in front of us, melodramatically complaining about how

much money he was losing. He repeatedly engaged in small talk with us. In

contrast, he behaved markedly different towards the other workers. He wasn't

necessarily being gruff or rude to them in front of us, but I didn't see him

chatting with other workers, and I certainly didn't see him helping any other

workers fill their buckets.

After work, we met with the CIW to figure out some of the specific logistics

for the LA and Irvine/Santa Ana actions. We're going to go out to work in the

fields again tomorrow.

Scott Sink

Orange County Committee of the Taco Bell Boycott campaign

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