New Alliance Takes Aim at McDonalds

WASHINGTON – Religious, human rights, student and labor organizations formed “The Alliance for Fair Food” on Wednesday to fight what they call unfair and inhumane working conditions for farm laborers.

The first objective of the group is to “reform McDonalds’ Tomato Supply Chain” by joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)’s campaign against the giant fast-food company. The Alliance and its members, including the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the Interfaith Alliance, will be challenging McDonalds to purchase tomatoes that are picked on farms with higher wage standards and working conditions.

Exactly one year ago, the CIW, in cooperation with Christian denominations and human rights groups, successfully forced Taco Bell and its parent company “Yum! Brands Inc” to improve the working conditions their tomato pickers. The agreement was made after a four-year CIW-led boycott of the company.

Supporters of the Taco Bell boycott hopes McDonalds will follow suit.

"The significance of this agreement is in the promise it holds for transforming the entire fast-food industry and the responsibility it confers on each one of us as consumers to walk with CIW into this future. Together we must ensure that this momentous first step charts a sure and clear path for other major buyers to follow," said the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

According to leaders of the newly found alliance, McDonalds was chosen as the next target because the fast-food company established a grower lobbying group called “Socially Accountable Farm Employers,” aimed at promoting the idea the human rights abuses in field have been addressed.

"We decided to launch the AFF at this moment because McDonalds is resisting these critical precedents established in the Taco Bell agreement and instead is promoting a plan for 'social responsibility on the cheap' that will bring no significant change to the lives of the workers whose voices were thoroughly excluded from its development and implementation," explained Todd Howland, Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

Tomato pickers currently make 40-45 cents for every 32 pound bucket – a rate that has not change for nearly 30 years. Workers also do not receive health care, sick leave, and other basic benefits.