Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The good guys win for a change
The University of Pennsylvania announced recently that it might bring a Taco Bell onto campus, which touched off a controversy due to the company's ongoing battle with Florida tomato pickers, most of whom make subhuman wages and work in deplorable conditions. The DP's Alex Koppelman writes:

Florida's tomato industry, which supplies Taco Bell, has been the site of some of the worst working conditions in recent American history. Wages haven't changed since the 1970s -- workers are paid 40 to 50 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they fill. If wages had kept pace with inflation, that rate should be 90 cents today. As it stands now, a worker must pick over a ton and a half of tomatoes in an eight-hour day just to earn the federally mandated minimum wage. Workers have no job security, no benefits and no overtime pay. In 2002, three men were convicted of actually enslaving 700 workers, beating and threatening with death those who disobeyed.

That's just the tip of the iceburg, I'm sure. In any case, Taco Bell has conceded defeat after a 4-year campaign by, among others, United Students Against Sweatshops, agreeing to charge it's suppliers a penny-a-pound surcharge on tomatoes, which must be passed directly to workers. Now, to be clear, this solves the Taco Bell problem, but not the tomato-pickers problem writ large, but it's a start, and an important, if minor, victory. But isn't it nice to see the good guys win for a change?


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