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One Penny for Progress

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 12, 2007 3:30PM

2007_4_hierarchy_4.jpgThis weekend the Chicagoist offices were in a tizzy, as The Nightwatchman Tom Morello announced his tour dates, including a stop on Chicago's Federal Plaza on April 14 to play the Immokalee Workers Rally. Part of the focus of this rally is to continue to shine a spotlight on the plight of migrant farmworkers that pick produce for some of the largest fast-food chains. One of those chains, McDonald's, calls Chicagoland (Oak Brook, to be exact) home.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have been pressing fast-food companies, through rallies, boycotts, and other tactics, to pressure tomato growers in Florida to pay a penny a pound more to the people that pick their produce. Earlier this week they announced that they had reached an agreement with McDonald's to pay a penny more per pound to Florida workers harvesting tomatoes for McDonald's; a stronger code of conduct based on the principle of worker participation; and a collaborative effort to develop a third-party mechanism for monitoring conditions in the fields and investigating workers' complaints of abuse. This comes after a successful campaign to get Yum Brands, the owner of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, to acquiesce to a similar agreement.

One little penny may not seem like much to most of us, but to the people that toil in the fields, it represents more than a 70% raise in wages, (currently earn about $190 per week picking tomatoes). Tomato pickers will now earn $325 if they spend the whole week picking tomatoes for McDonald's or Yum Brands. Sadly, since these agreements don't cover the much larger grocery industry or the casual-dining and white-tablecloth restaurant chains, this higher wage won't be available to many workers. CIW hopes that this agreement will set the stage for broader agreements that will impact the mostly migrant agricultural workforce not only in Florida, but nationwide.

Hierarchy-4 by Shiho Fukada.