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Report from Imokalee

by Scott Sink Saturday, Jan. 26, 2002 at 2:32 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 $2.50 for every bucket of tomatoes. However, he has to
give us state minimum wages, which is $6 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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