UMC Joins NCC in Boycott

WASHINGTON — The executive committee of the United Methodist Church joined the nationwide boycott against Mt. Olive Pickle Company during a Jan. 8 meeting.

"The executive committee expresses its deep appreciation to the (United Methodist) North Carolina Annual Conference for its efforts to bring the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. together," said Bishop S. Clifton Ives, board president, in a statement, "but the executive committee recognizes that significant movement toward resolution has not been made since the board cast its vote last fall, and therefore implementation of the boycott is an appropriate response."

The UMC will be joining an alliance of churches, lead by the National Council of Churches, including United Church of Christ, Alliance of Baptists and American Friends Service Committee.

During its General Assembly last November, the National Council of Churches voted to officially boycott both Mt. Olive Pickle and Taco Bell, the council’s first boycott action in 15 years.

The council’s action was aimed at pressuring Mt. Olive into negotiating for improved wages and working conditions for the farm workers who produce the cucumbers that Mt. Olive processes for its products.

A Church and Society delegation, led by Bishop Joel Martinez, visited North Carolina in 2000 to investigate the situation with Mt. Olive. The company, owned by a United Methodist, produces the largest-selling brand of pickles in the Southeast. Using the denomination’s "Guidelines for Initiating a Boycott," the team recommended that the agency join the boycott if Mt. Olive retaliated against a grower or failed to negotiate "in good faith" with growers and workers by March 15, 2001.

In its Jan. 8 statement, the Board of Church and Society identified several key issues to be addressed: (1) minimum standards for living and working conditions; (2) mechanisms for protection of workers; (3) ways to provide an independent voice of workers; (4) collective bargaining; and (5) registration and training of crew leaders.

The board’s executive committee pledged to continue to work with the North Carolina Annual Conference, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. to resolve the dispute.

The monitoring team will report back to the executive committee by July 1, as to whether conditions for the farm workers have improved.