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On the picket line

December 7, 2007 | Page 11

Farmworkers and Burger King
Baltimore hotel workers

Farmworkers and Burger King
By Elizabeth Schulte

MIAMI--More than 1,500 tomato pickers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their supporters made the nine-mile march to Burger King headquarters November 30 to demand fair conditions and wages in the fields.

The CIW, a community-based organization founded six years ago in southern Florida, wants Burger King to honor an agreement like the one fast-food giants McDonald's and Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W Restaurants) have already agreed to.

In 2005, the CIW won a four-year campaign that forced Taco Bell to agree to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes, with the stipulation that the entire amount be passed on to pickers. Last April, McDonald's agreed to a similar arrangement, increasing the wages of pickers to about 77 cents per bucket.

According to the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food, tomato pickers are paid virtually the same per-bucket piece rate (roughly 45 cents for a 32-pound bucket) today as they were in 1980. They have no right to overtime pay, even though many work 60- to 70-hour weeks, and no collective bargaining rights. Workers regularly face the threat of deportation and are regular targets of abuse by employers.

But Burger King refuses to let anything get in the way of its profits. Instead of adhering to a code of conduct agreed upon by Taco Bell and McDonald's, Burger King heads say they will follow a business-friendly monitoring program called Socially Accountable Farm Employers, which is employer-controlled.

When marchers arrived at corporate headquarters on Friday, they brought with them a trailerload of work boots that had been collected from farmworkers with the message, "Doubt our poverty: walk in our shoes." Workers were responding to claims by Burger King CEO John Chidsey, during an October 3 speech to his alma mater Davidson College, that farmworker poverty was a "myth."

Burger King's greedy intransigence is backed up by a recent move by the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which has threatened a $100,000 fine for any grower who accepts an extra penny per pound for pickers' wages.

For information on how to support the struggle to make the King pay a living wage, see

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Baltimore hotel workers
By Dan Sparks

BALTIMORE--Hotel workers at the Sheraton City Center have taken their struggle for a fair contract to the streets. After more than 18 months without a contract, they held a rally and march November 15 that drew more than 200 people.

William Yung III, CEO of the Columbia Sussex hotel empire, which owns the City Center, has made a point of running the most efficient company in the business. This has made stockholders happy--but not hotel workers, who continue to work long hours in terrible conditions.

Columbia Sussex is refusing to budge from a contract proposal that would increase the cost of health care, add to the workload of employees and raise wages by less than the rate of inflation.

But support for the Sheraton City Center workers, organized by UNITE HERE Local 7, was on display at rally. UNITE HERE delegations from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Atlantic City attended, and actor and activist Danny Glover was among the featured speakers. After the speeches, the rally turned into a moving picket outside the front entrance of the hotel.

Workers have voted to call for a boycott of the hotel, which they are supporting with regular leafleting and plans for more rallies to keep up the pressure.

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