Taco Bell boycott finally ends
Observer Viewpoint | Friday, March 18, 2005
On March 8, history was made. The three-year national boycott against Taco Bell ended after Taco Bell and its parent company, Yum Brands, agreed to meet the demands of the farm workers who pick the tomatoes they use in their products. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers was demanding a one cent increase for every pound of tomatoes that Taco Bell buys to nearly double the salary of tomato pickers who had to pick two tons to earn $50 and had been earning the same wages since 1978; a strict code of conduct that guarantees that there are no violations of human rights in the fields and obligates Taco Bell to cut contracts with companies who violate the code; and three-way dialogue between Taco Bell/Yum, the tomato companies and farmworkers to continue to improve wages and conditions for farmworkers and to put pressure on other corporations to take responsibility as well.
The agreement is historical because never before had a small group of farmworkers been able to bring to the table a huge corporation like Taco Bell and Yum Brands, which is the largest fast food industry in the world. It also sets a tremendous precedent in the movement for fair food and corporate responsibility. The victory last week is also not just a victory for the farmworkers but for the social justice/labor movement and for us as students and consumers. Students played a tremendous role in this campaign because we understood that this struggle was also our struggle. While on the one hand, corporations like Taco Bell benefit from the exploitation of workers at the bottom of their production chain, these corporations also exploit us by calling us the “New Hedonism Generation” and claiming that we are mindless consumers who do not care about what is behind the products we consume.
The student pressure in this struggle proved that students do not want products that are produced under conditions of exploitation and modern-day slavery. Twenty-two universities cut contracts with Taco Bell or prevented Taco Bell restaurants on their campuses since the beginning of the boycott. Notre Dame was one of those schools.
And so I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported this struggle. I thank the administration for standing behind our principles of Catholic Social Teaching, for listening to our concerns and taking action to cut our athletic contract with Taco Bell. I thank all the faculty and staff who supported our efforts and discussed the boycott in their classrooms to raise awareness. I thank all the students who in one way or another participated in the struggle; whether it was by signing a petition, wearing a button, protesting/flyering outside of the local Taco Bell, going on hunger strike or just telling someone else about the boycott. There is no doubt that our campaign and sacrifices were a part of the larger movement that now has proven results. But the victory against Taco Bell is only one battle – an important one, but only one, nonetheless.
The struggle for justice for farmworkers and fair food continues and now is the time to continue to build momentum. We are left with the option of either sitting back and observing this new chapter in our history or being a part of the writing of this history. For more information on the boycott, the victory, what’s next and how to get involved, visit: www.ciw-online.org.