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Boycott Burger King, unless you think slavery and corporate espionage are good things

May 12th, 2008 | by Jones of the Nile |

CIWOne of the campaigns I’ve long been following is the push for fair pay within the migrant farmworker community in Florida. One group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), has been at the forefront of this campaign for years – successfully lobbying the McDonald’s Corporation and Yum! Brands (owners of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut) to subsidize a modest pay raise for migrant tomato pickers. The CIW has since turned its attention to Burger King, and the King has roared back with nothing short of a militant public relations campaign to beat down the calls from human rights activists.

The ask: the CIW, the Student Farmworkers Alliance, and others are calling on Burger King to subsidize a “one-penny per pound” raise for tomato pickers – who make, on average, just below $10,000 per year. This subsidy would give tomato pickers an extra penny per pound of tomatoes that they pick. Additionally, the CIW and others are calling on Burger King to work with independent human rights groups to implement an enforceable code of conduct to ensure fair and safe working conditions for farmworkers in Burger King’s tomato supply chain.

In other words, the CIW is asking Burger King to follow the example of McDonald’s and Taco Bell.

Burger King’s response: refusal to subsidize the raise for farmworkers, saying that they get their produce from a third party supplier, and as such, aren’t responsible for the wages or the human rights conditions faced by tomato pickers.

But what’s unbelievably frightening and Orwellian in this debate are revelations, made last week in an op-ed by Eric Schlosser in the NY Times, that Burger King employed a private security company to infiltrate human rights groups working to improve the wages of migrant farmworkers. Per Schlosser:

In March, a woman named Cara Schaffer contacted the Student/Farmworker Alliance, saying she was a student at Broward Community College. Her eagerness aroused suspicions, but she was allowed to join two of the group’s planning sessions. Internet searches by the alliance revealed that she was not a college student.

Ms. Schaffer is the 25-year-old owner of a private security firm. Her company, Diplomatic Tactical Services, seems like the kind of security firm you’d find in one of Carl Hiaasen’s crime thrillers. Last year Ms. Schaffer was denied a private investigator’s license; she had failed to supply the Florida licensing division with proof of “lawfully gained, verifiable experience or training.” Even more unsettling, one of her former subcontractors, Guillermo Zarabozo, is now facing murder charges in United States District Court in Miami for his role in allegedly executing four crew members of a charter fishing boat, then dumping their bodies at sea.

In an interview, a Burger King executive told me that the company had worked with Diplomatic Tactical Services for years on “security-related matters” and had used it to obtain information about the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s plans — in order to prevent acts of violence. “It is both the corporation’s right and duty,” a company spokesman later wrote in an e-mail message to me, “to protect its employees and assets from potential harm.”

So the King hired a security company owned by a 25-year-old woman, who has a business that isn’t accredited, and whose hands are tied to the execution of four crew members of a fishing boat? If you don’t mind the pun, that’s a whopper of a revelation.


Check out Schlosser’s NY Times piece. Check out the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. On their site, here, you can download a sample letter to send (or drop off) to your local Burger King. If you take a picture while dropping the letter off, the CIW might even post it to their site!

And if at all possible, boycott Burger King until they agree to help raise the wages of farmworkers living way below the poverty line, and stop resorting to corporate espionage tactics as a means of supporting slavery.

  1. 2 Responses to “Boycott Burger King, unless you think slavery and corporate espionage are good things”

  2. By Rodney Wilson on May 12, 2008 | Reply

    The absence of a fair wage, for anyone, is a manifestation of the deadly sin of greed. Some want everything for themselves and don’t care how little others have! Legislation and boycotts can be helpful and must happen. But what we really need are changes of the heart and soul. We need personal conversions to the Jesus (and all world religions) principle: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

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