Burger King Offers To Send Employment Recruiters To Tomato Farms

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or CIW, has been lobbying Burger King to increase the money it pays for tomatoes by 1 penny per pound, in order to help tomato pickers earn a more livable wage. Burger King has denied their request, claiming:

To ask Burger King Corporation to pay a penny more a pound for tomatoes to increase workers’ wages is similar to asking shoppers to voluntarily pay a penny more per pound at the grocery store for tomatoes to increase workers’ wages. Both Burger King Corporation and grocery store shoppers have no business relationship with the workers and cannot get the extra penny to them.

Since they don’t want to seem, like, heartless or anything, Burger King has offered to work with the CIW to send human resources folks from BK down to the farm:

“We have spoken to CIW representatives about our interest in recruiting interested Immokalee workers into the BURGER KING

system. We have offered to send Burger King Corporation recruiters to the area to speak with the CIW and with workers themselves about permanent, full-time employment at BURGER KING

restaurants. Burger King Corporation offers ongoing professional training and advancement opportunities around the country for both entry-level and skilled employee jobs, and we are hopeful the CIW will accept our offer.”

We wonder if they’ll go for it. —MEGHANN MARCO

Statement from Burger King (Press Release) [NAMC Newswire] [Photo: carlosjwj]

Comments

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  1. FYI According to this RFK Memorial memo: Florida tomato pickers must fill a 32 lb. bucket to make 40 to 45 cents. Meaning in order to make 50 dollars a day they must pick 2 TONS of tomatoes.

  2. Trai_Dep says:

    As loathe I am to defend fast food conglomerates, the protesters have a weak understanding of simple economics. If someone high up on the distribution chain pays a penny (or dollars) more, it will get devoured by levels below it, in a succeeding fashion.

    The worker, on the bottom? Won’t see a dime.

    To do what the protesters want requires setting up a parallel distrib. system, like the Fair Trade coffee initiative. Even then, it’s hard policing it.

  3. strandist says:

    I’m going to have to side with Burger King on this one. If I intentionally overpay for a box of paper, I have no expectation of the surplus going to sustainable foresting or an increase in the salary for the lumber jacks or paper mill workers. I have every expectation of the office supply store or the paper company keeping that profit.

    If the problem is that the workers are not being paid a fair wage, then there are one of two problems. If the state’s labor laws are inadequate, then the CIW should be lobbying the state legislature for a fair minimum wage law. If the state’s labor laws are not being enfoced then the CIW should be lobbying the appropriate law enforcement branches.

  4. Tallanvor says:

    I tend to side with Burger King on this one… So what if they pay an extra penny per pound? Why should we believe that the distributer will pass that money on to the farmer, who will then pass the money on to the worker?

    Somebody would make more money, but it wouldn’t be the people at the bottom.

  5. AcilletaM says:

    Yeah, I agree with Burger King. No guarantee the workers see the money.

    And isn’t that a McDonald’s in the picture.

  6. bluegus32 says:

    And will someone please tell me why this is Burger King’s responsibility? When I buy anything, I buy the cheapest possible product for the level of quality that I expect. Protecting the average worker is the job of the government, not retailers or consumers.

  7. WindowSeat says:

    It pains me to say I’m also siding with Burger King on this. The only effective way to raise farm worker’s pay is through consumer activism. If people are genuinely committed to the well-being of farmworkers then they need an organized boycott of Florida tomatoes and to pressure the Florida Legislature to lean on the tomato producers. CIW is doing good work in Florida, but I think this is more of a propaganda tool than a useful solution. The CIW website is treating the matter as Burger King taking a “Let them eat cake” position which I find simplistic and misleading.

  8. ADM says:

    Going after Burger King is a good way to get publicity for their cause…much easier than picketing “the tomato industry” or whatever, but ethically and economically, I think BK has a strong case here.

    One thing Burger King probably could do, though, is pressure the tomato growers to pay a fair wage.

    I wonder how this recruitment effort will work out. I would certainly rather work at Burger King than try to pick 2 tons of tomatoes, that’s for sure. But I wonder if there are other practical limitations in place here that will limit the success of their efforts.

  9. Hawkins says:

    I hate the creepy King as much as the next guy, but I agree that this isn’t the way to go about increasing wages for farm workers.

    In fact, the easiest way to increase the pay for farm workers, and improve working conditions, is probably just to enforce existing foreign-labor laws.

    Undocumented workers tend to be willing to accept lower wages, and worse conditions, than legal workers. Cut the supply of cheap labor, and wages will increase.

    The costs will be passed up the chain, and Burger King will end up being forced to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes.

    Seems straightforward.

  10. chrissyq21479 says:

    uh yeah that is a mcdonalds. i’m pretty sure its the new flagship in downtown chicago.

  11. kenposan says:

    Now I’m hungry…and I side with BK. But good way to get your cause noticed, too bad it makes you look like an idiot for going after the wrong people.

  12. ndavies says:

    Is Burger King buying tomatoes at the supermarket?

  13. Jess A. says:

    trai_dep wrote: “As loathe I am to defend fast food conglomerates, the protesters have a weak understanding of simple economics.”

    The fact is that fast food companies are huge conglomerates with very real market power — and the CIW has had past success in improving the lives & economies of farm workers using means very similar to the demands they have made of Burger King.

    I think that it’s ultimately up to groups like this and to consumers to demonstrate that sums of money which seem small can make a drastic difference in the lives of the people at the bottom of the supply chain. Is BK really willing to hire as many of these people as (may) want jobs as opposed to paying one more penny per pound of tomatoes? It seems that hiring so many people on at the US minimum wage would be far more expensive (particularly if the new workers hope for full-time hours and benefits, which, admittedly, they are not likely to receive at BK).

  14. Jess A. says:

    By the way — I think it would be great if The Consumerist could give links to both sides of the story, instead of just linking us to the official statement from the giant corporation.

    Here is the main website for the CIW.

    Here is CIW’s official response to BK’s press release.

  15. ACurmudgeon says:

    bravo, Jess. Spot on. And I will be joining any boycott of Burger King to support these workers. I grew up near Immokalee and so maybe it is just proximity, but Floridians have known for years that the fast food industry is hurting the workers. Taco Bell stepped up, forcrissakes!

  16. bravo says:

    why is burger king being singled out? why not ask publix or whatever grocer is in your town to pay an extra penny per pound?

  17. dantsea says:

    I think Burger King absolutely should stop exploiting the Florida tomato pickers. They should buy directly from growers in Mexico or California.

  18. comedian says:

    The pickers should see if they can get the Stackers Union to set up a local for them.

  19. Anonymously says:

    Why is there not a better alternative for these people than picking 2 tons of tomatoes a day for $50? If the tomato market sucks that badly, they should just stop trying to compete in it.

  20. Phishy says:

    Wow.
    So righteous and cynical at the same time.

  21. cerulgalactus says:

    Fuck this, I’m going out for some curly fries. Anyone want some?

  22. danio3834 says:

    I’d side with Burger King too. Everyone assumes that they can steal a piece of corporate wellfare, nomatter how small. I’m all for higher wages, but this is ridiculous.

    If those pics are really of people protesting this issue, theyve got some nerve.

  23. imajoebob says:

    Great response by The King. Especially sending recruiters to the pickers. Even putting up with jerks like us who start yelling about cold fries has to be better than picking. And there actually is a potential career path.

  24. Shorteh says:

    I don’t understand what the problem is with a multi-billion dollar company paying one cent more for tomatoes to help fellow human beings.

    No you do not share a business relationship with the people, but ever heard of doing something kind for your fellow man? Come on Burger King we know you don’t pay your employees a liveable wage so why go from one dead end low-paying job to another where an 18 year-old kid could potentially be your new boss?

    Think about it.