Supersize picker’s pay

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is fighting exploitation in the fast-food industry.

The largest fast-food chain in the world is on the defensive once again as it comes under fire for paying its workers a wage characterized by some as “sweatshop-like.”

The Coalition of Immokalee workers – an organization that represents mostly Hispanic farm workers – has begun a campaign to get the fast-food giant to pay its tomato-picking farm workers 1 cent more per pound of tomatoes. Last year, the same organization was successful in forcing Taco Bell to give a similar raise to its farm workers after organizing a four-year national strike and boycott against the chain.

Today the vast majority of America’s farm workers are undocumented. As the national discussion over illegal immigration reaches fever pitch, it is important to cut through the rhetoric. This is a human rights issue – it is morally bankrupt to conceive that a person is less deserving of a living wage, dignity, respect and human rights because they are labeled as “illegal.”

The fact remains that millions of “illegal” farm workers have a tremendous impact on the United States. They are essential to the economy because they do the work that no one else would do at wages that no one else would accept. Still, companies continue to exploit these workers even further by progressively decreasing their wages. Since the 1980s the hourly wage – adjusted for inflation – for some farm workers has fallen by more than 50 percent.

The Coalition of Immokalee workers has organized, and through their strikes and boycotts they clearly have stated that they are not lovin’ it. Despite the xenophobia and racist barriers the union has faced, they have come together in solidarity and made a real difference, not only for farm workers, but for everyone in the United States.

We hope that, as the coalition takes on McDonald’s and the rest of the fast-food industry, it will be as successful as they have been already. We hope the companies will be quicker to act to support human rights.

Students also should recognize that as consumers they have the power to support more livable wages for these workers.