Taco Bell workers fight labor abuses

Drake Olson

What permits one person to wield power over their fellow man? Do some people exist solely to submit to others and to carry out any orders given to them?

As a long standing controversy, some argue slavery as an invalid and absurd practice; while others whole heartedly believe in their own superiority and defend taking advantage of those who are unable to afford opposition.

Although people today generally relate to the 1800s as the only period of time when slavery was a notable concern, the truth is that it has continued to be a painful issue in the world for years.

Contradictory to what many may believe, the Civil War did not resolve all conflict regarding slavery. In fact, labor abuses are currently taking place all over the world. Although the media has tried to downplay this issue, it is a reality.

Even in America, a country so given to opportunity and accomplishing dreams, several companies rely on questionable labor practices for mass production of consumer goods and all around success.

Florida is one of the primary states contributing to labor abuse. Several farmworker communities have been established throughout the state, mainly in the southwestern area. Immokalee is the largest farmworker community in Florida.

The Coalition of Immokalee workers is an organization comprised of more than 2,500 underpayed and overworked tomato and citrus harvesters. It was formed in 1994 by a small group of workers who met once a week in a local church to discuss how to improve their communities and lives.

?The pay that a Florida farm-worker receives for a tub of tomatoes is 42 cents for a 32-pound tub and it hasn’t changed in 25 years,? Corey McPherson Nash of Oxfam America, a company highly involved with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said. ?In real terms, this means a 60% drop in earnings, making these farm-workers the lowest wage earners in the US.?

When it comes to ethnicity, the Immokalee community is not equally diverse. About fifty percent of the community is Mexican, thirty percent is Guatemalan, ten percent is Haitian and other nationalities (mostly African-American) compose the last ten percent.

Immigrants are sent all over America?s east coast, where they hope to find a good job and make a decent income. More often than not, they soon realize that their hopes will never become a reality.

Yum! Brand owns the largest chain of fast food restaurants in the world, including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silvers and several others. This corporation has been involved in a number of labor abuses.

Recently, the Coalition has succeeded in making some concrete changes in their undesirable working conditions.

?In May, 39% of the shareholders of Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, supported a resolution calling for sustainable wages for farm-workers who pick tomatoes for Taco Bell suppliers,? Nash said. ?The resounding thirty-nine percent vote has marked a major victory for the Coalition.?

Hopes are still high for full justice to be brought not only to Florida, but also all over the world.

?Yum! Brand has long denied responsibility for labor rights abuses by its suppliers,? Thea Gelbspan, a representative of the Coalition, said. ?Since the May resolution, Yum! has continued talks with us to find a solution, but so far, no agreements have been reached. We?ll keep trying no matter what.?

For More Information on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and labor abuses in America visit their websites.