Florida farmworkers speak truth to Taco Bell
Dan Berger
April 2002

Close to 2,000 people protested outside of Taco Bell international headquarters in Irvine, Calif. on March 11. Organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker organization based in southwest Florida, the protest was the culmination of a two-week tour protesting the multinational's treatment of workers in Immokalee.

Stopping in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and a dozen more cities across the United States, the tour's message was loud and clear: a living wage for farmworkers. Each stop was filled with diverse and energetic actions against Taco Bell, complete with puppets, banners and a diverse mix of farmworkers, students, community and religious organizations and unions.

Stops also included solidarity actions with local struggles wherever possible, continuing CIW's lasting tradition of building grassroots relationships across the country. Indeed, across the world - two workers from France instrumental in organizing a successful strike against McDonald's there accompanied the tour.

Immokalee workers-who make about $7,500 annually and are denied health care, sick leave and the right to organize-haven't had a raise in more than two decades.

Taco Bell, a fast-food giant that makes over $5.2 billion a year, is one of the biggest corporations to use tomatoes picked from Immokalee. If they paid one penny more per pound of tomatoes, it would double Immokalee workers' salaries. While the restaurant still refuses to "intervene" in what they call a dispute between "the growers and their property," the workers are confident in their ability to achieve success.

"We do not need violence to win this fight," said farmworker and CIW member Marcelo Paredes, in a talk in Denver. "Our best and only weapon is the truth, our words, and the consciousness of the people who hear our cry for simple justice and are joining our side in greater numbers every day."

This talk, Marcelo's first public address, "symbolized the character of the Taco Bell boycott, of people taking power-and control of their own destinies-back from the corporations that have come to dominate our lives," according to CIW's Web site.

About 70 people went on the tour that left Florida on March 1. The predominantly Latino coalition has been engaged in a campaign against Taco Bell since April 2001. The tour was originally scheduled to take place in late September, but was rescheduled due to the terrorist attacks.

While the workers are back in Florida, the campaign against Taco Bell and for farmworker justice continues. Other farmworker unions and radical organizations the nationwide have pledged their solidarity and students at many college campuses are trying to get Taco Bell kicked off campus as part of the "Boot the Bell" campaign.

CIW continues to put their politics into practice, marching under the banner, "from the people, for the people. We are all leaders."

For more information on CIW and how you can help with the campaign, contact: Coalition of Immokalee Workers, PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 941-657-1776 www.ciw-online.org. Email: CoaImmWkr@aol.com

This article first appeared in Onward Magazine, www.onwardnewspaper.org, a national anarchist newspaper produced locally.

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