What’s in YOUR Whopper?

There is a video recently posted on YouTube by the Student/Farmworker Alliance featuring Burger King CEO, John Chidsey, when he spoke a his alma mater, Davidson College in North Carolina. He was asked about social justice and Burger King’s tomato pickers. Click here to watch.

“Sure. Actually, let’s address the tomato pickers. I was hoping someone was going to ask me about this first so we can get that off the table. Never has there been a better story example of how the media twists a story and gets their facts all wrong and then you get churches jump on the story either end up being churches explaining the facts.

“The facts of the tomatoes are very straight forward. The average tomato picker in the state of Florida makes $12.56 an hour. If you’re really good, you can make 20 bucks an hour. When you’re not picking, if you’re in the truck, driving out to the field, or you’re–whatever your chores are before you pick, you get paid the minimum wage.

“All those workers–I’ll correct myself in case it’s not all–85 percent of those workers make more money than McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, anybody, any of us, the average wage in our industry McDonald’s, Burger King is like 7 or 8 bucks an hour. So, they’re already making more money than we pay our own workers.”

Sounds great… too bad it’s so wrong. Here are some real facts: tomato pickers are not paid by the hour. They are paid in tockens, one for each buckets they pick.

Fact: in 1980, most farms paid 40 cents per bucket. Today, most farms pay just 45 cents per bucket.

Fact: farworkers don’t get paid for the ride to the fields. Or for when it rains, or when the fields aren’t ready.

That’s why there’s no such thing as an “average hourly wage in tomatoes.

Fact: farmworkers earn in average only $10,000 – $12,000 per year (US Dept. of Labor)

Fact: the US Dept. of Labor has called farmworkers “a labor force in severe economic distress,” with no right to pay, no benefits, and no right to organize.

Fact: there have been six federal prosecutions for slavery in Florida’s fields in the past 10 years alone.

This prompted one prosecutor to call Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery.”

Here’s one more fact: John Chidsey made $11.7 million last year. He can have his own opinion on farmworker poverty. But he can’t have his own facts.

Get the facts. CIW-online.org.

For more videos about the fight for fair tomatoes, check out Tomato Freakout.org.


4 responses to “What’s in YOUR Whopper?

  1. So it sounds like the workers are getting paid a fair wage. I don’t get the slavery argument. If the average tomato picker is making as much or more than the average Burger King employee, why are they using such an emotionally charged term as slavery?

  2. thanks for the heads up, Jason. I’ve edited the transcript to show video captions so those who don’t watch it can still see the whole picture.

  3. So in essence are you saying that John stood up in front of a room full of hundreds of family and friends and offered bold faced lies knowing full well that the media would have access to his comments? Or are you simply saying that Mr. Chidsey is ill-informed?

  4. There’s a famous Upton Sinclair quote that goes like this: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” I’m sure Chidsey understands just about what he needs to to bring in his $11.7 million per year. Has he ever talked to farmworkers? I have. The Coalition of Immokalee workers has.

    A few months before Chidsey made these dreamworld claims, McDonald’s commissioned a survey through a PR firm and the Tomato Grower’s Association that found that FL tomato pickers made something like $18 an hour. This is just pure nonsense. I feel like going out and commissioning a study that finds they make $25 an hour, and then the problem will be solved, and we can all quit worrying about these guys and go to the beach!

    I’m joking. My point is this: If you want to know anything in this world don’t listen to Chidsey, me, the CIW, or McDonald’s: go find out for yourself. Ask the workers. You’ll get all different kinds of answers. Some workers come to the United States and work hard and are treated relatively fairly and are given what they are promised by their employers. But many, many, many workers do not get what they are promised. Sometimes they’re stiffed a little bit, cheated here and there, sometimes they’re more egregiously cheated, and sometimes they’re outright enslaved.

    Is the term “slavery” justified? Let’s be very clear: slavery is not low wages, it’s not mistreatment, it’s not fraud or child labor or any of these things: it refers to a person exerting an illegal level of control over another person, control of a type which we banned, as a nation, about 150 yrs ago. Whether you control someone for 2 weeks, months, or years, and whether you do so by putting chains on them, as was done in the past, or by extorting them and holding a debt over their head, threatening them with deportation or harm to their family members, and using that nexus of coercion to control their movement and cheat them of wages, it’s all the same thing. It may not be our grandpa’s slavery, or, for that matter, ancient Roman or Greek-style slavery, either. But it’s still the same thing: people controlling other people to a degree that is illegal, immoral, and harmful to the larger society.

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