Today, after four years of struggle, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has ended their boycott of Taco Bell after winning major concessions from the company. Taco Bell, amidst an ongoing grassroots campaign organized by the CIW, has agreed to work with the Florida-based farmworker organization to improve wages and working conditions for farm workers in the tomato industry. Taco Bell has agreed to fund a penny per pound “pass-through” with its Florida tomato suppliers with the additional penny going directly to farm workers to help make up for stagnant, sub-poverty wages that have not increased since 1978. In addition, Taco Bell has agreed to take a leadership role in the improving working conditions in the industry stating that “human rights are universal and we hope others will follow our company’s lead”–a significant change from Taco Bell’s previous position that minimized or ignored abuses in the tomato industry.
According to a statement from Lucas Benitez of the CIW, “This is an important victory for farm workers, one that establishes a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry and makes an immediate material change in the lives of workers. This sends a clear challenge to other industry leaders.” Moreover, the agreement shows the power of grassroots organizing across a variety of communities. Labor, student, and religious groups all worked together on the Taco Bell boycott, including Students Against Sweatshops GVSU who organized a local campaign at Grand Valley State University to remove Taco Bell from GVSU’s campus.