McDonalds Will Pay More For Tomatoes

The organization that is always pestering fast food giants to pass some of their profits along to farm workers by paying $0.01 more for tomatoes has scored a major victory with McDonald’s. From BusinessWeek:

Under the agreement, a third party will verify that farmworkers who pick McDonald’s tomatoes will receive the increase. Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s will also require its suppliers to follow a workplace code of conduct that the workers would help create.

The deal involves payments for grape tomatoes that go on McDonald’s salads. McDonald’s USA spokesman William Whitman said the cost would not be passed on to consumers.

The group won a similiar concession from Taco Bell aftera 4-year boycott. Burger King was uninterested in paying more for tomatoes, 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.”

Burger King then offered to send employment recruiters to the tomato farms. Most recently, Burger King has changed their buying habits to favor farms who put more emphasis on animal welfare.

McDonald’s had previously shared Burger King’s sentiments regarding the practicality of rewarding tomato farm workers, according to the AP:

McDonald’s had previously refused the coalition’s requests, maintaining it bought tomatoes through a third party and could not track where its produce came from. Instead, it sponsored a study — later discredited — that suggested farmworkers were paid more than twice the state’s minimum wage.

—MEGHANN MARCO

McDonald’s to pay more for tomatoes [BusinessWeek]
(Photo: Morton Fox)

PREVIOUSLY: Burger King Offers To Send Employment Recruiters To Tomato Farms

Burger King To Go Cage-Free?

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  1. tvh2k says:

    Honestly, I think movements like this violate the very nature of our supply-and-demand economy. If there were not workers willing to work in such poor conditions then farmers would have to pay the workers more to fulfill their labor requirements. That additional cost would in-turn be passed on to the consumer. However, the fact of the matter is that people are willing to work for these wages, and so the market sells tomatoes at a certain price. For the consumer to voluntarily offer to pay a premium for a product makes no sense at all.

  2. oldhat says:

    Burger King is full of sh*t.

    These huge companies have the kind of buying power that they can dictate business practices…and they usually do!

    Walmart pressures suppliers to cut costs, no matter how, in order to be on their shelves, McDonald’s does it for meat suppliers, etc etc etc. Not crackpot conspiracies, but documented business practices that they admit to, and brag about.

    At the end of the day, corporations need to show they have souls, as do the people who make up the organization. You can’t hide behind the corporate facade and the “free market”. Otherwise why not run sweatshops, employ death squads, enslave children?

    Hmmm, wait a sec…

  3. cracker002 says:

    I think Burger King makes more sense here actually, unless there is some kind of ability to verify where the pennies actually go, and enforceable under contract.

    But the best way to help agricultural workers is to realize that when you pay as little as you do for food at McDonald’s and BK, you are contributing to oppressive migrant economy that we have (and you are going to be eating crap). Accept the fact that good (in both taste and health) food is going to cost more money to grow, harvest, and transport. Stop eating crap, stop supporting rapacious international fast-food corporations. Just stop.

  4. WV.Hillbilly says:

    I don’t care if BK beats the cows to death with ball bats as long as the meat is tender.

  5. ironchef says:

    how much you wanna bet none of that makes it to the workers?
    Growers pocket any profit they can.

  6. hemaphore says:

    …and thats one of the many reasons why i don’t eat at BK….

  7. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    WOW!
    1¢ more per pound!
    Them farm workers are going to Disney World!
    On McDonald’s dime [10 pennies actually] no less!
    Next they each go out & buy a Lexus!
    What a total, sick joke!

  8. NoneMoreBlack says:

    While it is possible that a company with a monopsony in the consumption of tomatoes could be underpaying, I would have to see some pretty compelling evidence demonstrating that McDonald’s constitutes a large enough share of the global tomato market to capture monopsony power.

  9. oldhat says:

    @NoneMoreBlack: You’re not looking hard enough. You might question Churches Chicken…but McDonald’s? They OWN the market. They decided to put apples in their salads…guess who is the SINGLE biggest apple buyer in the country now?

    Each customer has some say with the company they buy from. Burger King definitely has some pull with the tomato growers, as they negotiate pretty serious contracts on the market. Likewise the Meat, chicken…hell, even the cups and napkins!

    We all have pull in the economy, fat slob, big business and everyone in between, and with that also comes responsibility.

    Anyway, the only problem is how to make sure that the pickers get the extra money…that’s the lure of outsourcing of course. Not our problem!

  10. umonster says:

    @tvh2k: I doubt workers _are_ willing to work in poor conditions; they just tend not to have a choice. I think what’s going on is a perfect example of free market economics.

  11. webwbr says:

    Hey ‘oldhat’ unless you’re packin’ and MBA in economics, I wouldn’t be dissin’ BK’s position or speaking so confidently. With all due respect, after reading your posts you clearly have no idea how all this really works… sorry, but you don’t.

    If you do have an MBA in econ, well then my apologies — you’re still wrong — but my apologies.

  12. Hawkins says:

    If we want to improve the lot of American farm workers, there’s something really, really simple that we can do:

    Just enforce existing immigration law.

    Less cheap illegal farm labor means that the tomato factory has to pay the workers more. They pass on the costs to Burger King, who end up paying a penny more per pound per tomato, not because of some dipshit Coalition, but as a result of basic economics.

    Call me a Commie, but I believe in justice for the American worker.

  13. Bourque77 says:

    @Hawkins: I agree with you, although im sure by doing so we are racist or want to violate their rights or some other bullshit. Hire workers that will stand up for their rights and force employers to provide better working conditions how about we try that.

  14. Timtastic says:

    How is this at all a win for consumers? How do you think the increased costs are going to get paid for? This sounds more like collusion to me.

  15. oldhat says:

    Webwbr: I’m not saying anything that isn’t painfully obvious. If you can’t see it, well, maybe your politics are blinding you. And of course I have an advanced degree in any area that I post an opinion on…don’t you?

    Hawkins: That’s funny…scared of being called a commie for sticking up for the American worker. But that’s how it goes…(psst, you may be right, even)

    Mexico is a very rich country. There’s only political reasons why the people are so poor. Some countries got nuthin (like Haiti, maybe) but Mexico is fabulously wealthy. They need to stop the brain drain and focus on developing their nation instead of ours. And we should help.

  16. loueloui says:

    I’m not surprised Burger King would take this kind of stance. After the hurricanes down here in Florida in `05 they stopped putting tomatoes on sandwiches for like 6 months.

    Their excuse was that they ‘couldn’t find tomatoes of high enough quality for their fine sandwiches’, due to all of the tomato farms being destroyed. Or some BS like that. Of course they still charged full price.

    Most of the restaurants would not even post a sign, and if they did it was where you paid -after you ordered, not before where you could still change your mind.

    They kept this up for months too, way after the other burger joints had started putting them on sandwiches. It was a total lie to gouge the consumer.

  17. loueloui says:

    I’m not surprised Burger King would take this kind of stance. After the hurricanes down here in Florida in `05 they stopped putting tomatoes on sandwiches for like 6 months.

    Their excuse was that they ‘couldn’t find tomatoes of high enough quality for their fine sandwiches’, due to all of the tomato farms being destroyed. Or some BS like that. Of course they still charged full price.

    Most of the restaurants would not even post a sign, and if they did it was where you paid -after you ordered, not before where you could still change your mind.

    They kept this up for months too, way after the other burger joints had started using them again. It was a total lie to gouge the consumer.

  18. NoneMoreBlack says:

    oldhat: so you say, but that doesn’t really constitute evidence. and you are claiming that they are the largest consumer of whatever commodity in the country; one of the benefits of globalization is that there are few commodities where competition is not world wide. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they were the largest consumer of tomatoes or apples or what have you in the country; but if people don’t like the price Mcdonald’s wants to pay in the US, they will just ship that commodity somewhere that it is scarcer.

    Evidence, please. Evidence.

  19. eightfifteen says:

    Way to go McDonald’s! Personally, I would love to pay an extra penny for tomatoes if that meant that the pickers could make a livable wage.

  20. kcs says:

    I have a feeling that the raised price of tomatoes has already been passed on to McDonalds consumers. They raised the price of their salads twice in the last few moths. They used to cost $4.32, then were raised to $4.43 and are now at $4.54.

    I’m not pissed about the extra 20 cents but I am pissed that just when I have the price memorized (so that I can have the exact change ready) they change the price again.