RFK Center Congratulates Immokalee Workers on Burger King Agreement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2008
9:07 AM

CONTACT: RFK Center
Jeffrey Buchanan
202-463-7575 ext 241
buchanan@rfkmemorial.org

 
RFK Center Congratulates Immokalee Workers on Burger King Agreement
Press Conference Announcing Burger King and Coalition of Immokalee Workers Agreement (with Senator Bernie Sanders, Coalition for Immokalee Workers co-founder Lucas Benitez, and Burger King Corporation Senior Vice President Amy Wagner) to be held at 10:30 a.m., Friday, May 23, 2008 United States Capitol, Room S.120
 
WASHINGTON, DC - May 23 - The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights (RFK Center) congratulates the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in their hard-fought victory securing an agreement with Burger King Corporation on farmworkers’ rights earlier this week. This agreement marks an important step toward establishing socially responsible purchasing practices within the fast-food industry and recognizing basic human rights for agricultural workers in the United States. The CIW, a southwest Florida-based human rights organization of almost 5,000 farmworkers, previously secured similar agreements with Yum! Brands (parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and other chains) and McDonald’s.

“This agreement is a tipping point in the struggle for fair food,” said Monika Kalra Varma, Director of RFK Center. “Three of the nation’s largest fast food chains and largest purchasers of Florida tomatoes have now have come to the same conclusion, that they can and must play a role in securing the human rights of workers in their supply chain. We applaud Burger King’s effort to root out human rights abuses and modern-day slavery from America’s fields and call upon the restaurants, the grocery chains and other mass purchasers of Florida tomatoes to follow in their footsteps.”

The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Senate hearings before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, led by Chairman Edward Kennedy and Senators Bernie Sanders, Dick Durbin, and Sherrod Brown, which examined human rights abuses in the Florida tomato industry.

“Now is the time for the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) remove all obstacles and respect the agreements reached by the CIW and these corporations towards securing a livable wage and ensuring human rights for tomato pickers” said Varma.

The agreement between the CIW and Burger King announced this week in Washington D.C. was based on three values grounded in internationally recognized human rights principles:
    • A pay raise of a penny per pound of tomatoes picked, nearly doubling the piece rate when workers pick tomatoes for Burger King;
    • Supply chain transparency and a verifiable zero-tolerance policy for modern-day slavery;
    • The right for farmworkers to participate, through the CIW, in the development and implementation of an enforceable code of conduct.

RFK Center has worked with the CIW since 2003, when three of the group’s leaders became the first U.S.-based human rights defenders to be awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Since that time, RFK Center has supported the CIW’s innovative work to achieve equal rights for farmworkers and the end of slavery in U.S. fields. As part of the effort, RFK Center joined other allies of the CIW to found the Alliance for Fair Food to promote principles and practices of socially responsible purchasing in the corporate food industry.

Source: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (www.rfkmemorial.org)

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