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Notre Dame issues statement on Taco Bell

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Notre Dame issued a public statement Tuesday postponing the renewal of its sponsorship contract with Taco Bell until the University receives specific answers about the company’s labor standards.University spokesman Matt Storin said the athletic department had been in the process of renewing its existing $50,000 contract with local restaurants – and expanding it to $75,000 by next fall – but put negotiations on hold due to the failure of Taco Bell officials to provide details about the Code of Conduct for its tomato growers. While he stressed that the “clock wouldn’t start until the fall” for facets of the renewed sponsorship to take effect, Storin said the University still expected a more complete and timely answer from the company.”There has to be a point where we lose patience,” he said. Officials began drafting the statement late last week after they did not receive a satisfactory response to a letter first sent by vice president and general counsel Carol Kaesebier on March 5. Kaesebier e-mailed another copy of the letter April 16 after a spokesperson for Yum! Brands Inc. – the Louisville, Ky.-based company that owns Taco Bell – said the inquiry was never received.The only response the University will consider satisfactory is “a true one,” Storin said. “At the very least, we need to get the facts.”The statement acknowledged the input Notre Dame has received from the Coalition for Imokalee Workers and from concerned students, as during the past month several students delivered letters to University President Father Edward Malloy and more than 120 fasted to show solidarity with the tomato pickers. Storin said the crux of the statement was to solicit similar information from Taco Bell in an attempt to be fair to all sides.”It demonstrates an evenhanded, deliberate way of dealing with the problem,” he said, adding that the University must also take the priorities and mission of the athletic department into account before coming down on either side.”We have to be careful in making that judgment,” he said.Though any unfairness on the part of Taco Bell has yet to be brought to light, Storin credited the students with calling attention to the issue.”It remains to be seen whether all their concerns were justified,” he said. “But we admire all their values and interest in doing that.”