March 21, 2007
Listen up, clown.
This is a member of your so-called marketing “sweet spot” talking to you.
I do not claim to represent all 18- to 24-year-olds, nor do I need to because very soon you will encounter an avalanche of correspondence from us, and we, as a diverse, decentralized movement, will have a variety of ways of communicating with you: perhaps by dispatching letters to your executive bosses, converting the bland walls of McDonald’s’ outlets with our art installations, and fomenting campaigns at our schools to oust your Big Mac-peddling establishments from campus.
Now, Ronald, this is not a threat. It is a reasonable assumption based on the spectrum of tactics we students and youth used during the Taco Bell Boycott, a campaign that Mother Jones awarded the Campus Activism Victory of the Year in 2005. If you want to understand how we think (and we know you do, or else how would you convince us to buy your burgers?), then understand this: We think the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the immigrant farmworker-led crew of activists in southern Florida calling on your bosses to fix their complicity in widespread labor abuse, has initiated a dynamic, unstoppable movement.
Today, food harvesting in the United States is anything but fair: Tomato pickers in Immokalee must pick two tons of tomatoes one by one — literally 4,000 pounds — just to make $50, and they regularly work 10- to 12-hour days with no overtime pay, no right to organize, no sick days and no benefits whatsoever. But instead of begging the government to intervene (politicos reliant on campaign contributions from the agricultural bigwigs whose industry dominates Florida’s economy), the CIW demands change from those directly responsible for their oppression. This is you and your imperial fast food compatriots, Ronald.
It is McDonald’s who authorizes the suffering of farmworkers to secure their profits. No one else in McDonald’s supply chain — the series of business deals moving a tomato from the misery of the fields to your Happy Meals — walks away so handsomely, and we youth have taken notice, thanks principally to the brave denunciations of farmworkers themselves.
After their defeat in 2004, Taco Bell affirmed the ability of fast food leaders to remedy abuses perpetrated at the other end of their supply chain by caving in to all of the CIW’s demands, including wage increases and a progressive Code of Conduct (whereby the CIW themselves would investigate reported labor abuses).
But there are three other gems of insight regarding corporate campaigns that we, youth organizers with the CIW for Fair Food, have gleaned from the Taco Bell Boycott: