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NCC calls on fast food chains to act like Taco Bell

Louisville, June 1, 2005 -- The executive board of the National Council of Churches USA has called on fast food chains to follow the lead of Taco Bell to guarantee the human rights of farm workers in their supply chains.

"Four years ago farm workers from Immokalee, Florida stepped forward in faith, believing that together as consumers, corporations, and workers we could create a better way of doing business that builds human well-being," said Bishop Thomas J. Hoyt, Jr., President of the NCC.

Workers picking tomatoes for Taco Bell are seeing a significant increase in their wages and the promise of improved working conditions because of the March agreement between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Yum Brands.

"And today we are seeing the first fruits of our efforts," Hoyt said. "But in truth, this is only the first step. We now look to McDonald's, Burger King and Subway to walk with the CIW and their allies into a new future, so that the human rights of farm workers throughout the fast-food industry will be similarly ensured." Hoyt is pictured in Immokalee earlier, during the boycott of Taco Bell.

The executive board commended the CIW and Taco Bell for reaching the precedent-setting agreement that will improve wages and working conditions for farm workers. The agreement ended an almost four year consumer boycott of Taco Bell, which the NCC supported since November of 2003.

"We commend the CIW for the principled and non-violent campaign it led, which drew the world's attention to the grave abuses endured by farm workers in this country and our ability as consumers and major corporations to help put an end to exploitation," said The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, NCC General Secretary.

"We are particularly pleased that Yum Brands is taking a leadership role in promoting this kind of model throughout the fast-food industry," Edgar said. "It is time for other major buyers to follow Taco Bell's lead. Taco Bell has demonstrated that change is possible."

"The NCC publicly calls upon McDonald's, Burger King, and Subway to support the socially responsible purchasing principles established in this agreement and to meet with the CIW to ensure the highest standards of human rights in their own supply chains," Edgar said.

Farm workers picking tomatoes in Florida are earning 40-45 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick and have an annual median income of $7,500, according to the Department of Labor.

The CIW-Yum Brands agreement established the first-ever direct, ongoing payment by a fast-food industry leader to farm workers in its supply chain to address sub-standard farm labor wages (increasing workers wages from 40 cents to around 72 cents per bucket of tomatoes picked).

It also established an enforceable Code of Conduct for agricultural suppliers in the fast-food industry, guaranteed by CIW involvement in the monitoring of suppliers, and market incentives for agricultural suppliers willing to respect their workers' rights, even when those rights are not guaranteed by law.

Contact: NCC News. Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350,; Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252,


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