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.