Demanding pay justice for tomato workers

FW photo: Anne Pruden
FW photo: Anne Pruden

By Anne Pruden

Two Wendy’s fast food restaurants in New York City’s West Village appeared to have more people picketing outside than they had customers inside on the rainy Saturday night of October 27. A multinational group of dozens of protesters demanded support for the farmworkers who pick tomatoes in Florida.

These exploited workers, with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, are paid piece work and are demanding recognition of their Fair Food Program. The program has become a partnership among farmers, tomato growers and 11 leading food corporations, including the five largest fast food companies — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell and Chipotle.

But Wendy’s refuses to agree to this plan that would improve pay for the farmworkers. Immokalee organizer Geraldo explained outside Wendy’s that farmworkers have suffered decades of abuse, “getting not only poverty wages but no overtime and violence against them from some bosses, with all their racism and sexism.” Since 1980 the tomato workers get only 50 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes a worker picks. This means he or she must pick nearly 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday!

Shouting “Down, down, exploitation! Up, up, fair food nation!” tonight’s boycott protest included members of UNITE HERE, New York University students and religious leaders. Pickets kept going while Geraldo led a group into Wendy’s to deliver a letter of demands. “We have the power when we stand together!” he said upon his return from inside Wendy’s, where the boss had called police against the picketers. Chanting loudly, the protest moved on to another Wendy’s nearby.

FW photo: Anne Pruden
FW photo: Anne Pruden

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