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Boot Taco Bell Meeting Fired Up

The Boot The Bell from University of Chicago organizing meeting Wedneday night was fired up and well attended by 150 folks, mostly U of C students.
The Boot The Bell from University of Chicago organizing meeting Wedneday night was fired up and well attended by 150 folks, mostly U of C students.

Members of thirteen registered student groups gave statements of solidarity with the campaign for booting Taco Bell from Hutch Commons. Hundreds of signatures have been gathered and 34 community groups from Chicago have endorsed the campaign.

The campaign is part of the Taco Bell Truth Tour to promote solidarity with tomato pickers who suffer under oppressive treatment by the Six L corporation in Immokalee, Florida. As Taco Bell is a primary buyer for Six L, Immokalee workers have organized a boycott of Taco Bell to demand their willingness to pay a price increase of 1 cent per pound of tomatoes it buys from Six L, which would double the piece rate for workers.

The student-worker-community coalition that has been created hosted speakers from U of Chicago and the Taco Bell Truth tour.

Francesca, an agricultural worker, gave accounts of the conditions at Immokalee. Workers are not allowed to leave the work camp premises and receive very low pay (with a median income of $7500, lower than 20 years ago). They are denied the right to organize and receive no overtime or sick days or paid vacation. The mostly immigrant workers are exposed to pesticides and receive no health care insurance. Cases of cancer were said to be tied to pesticide exposure, with perhaps many more cases in latency. Francesca finished her story saying: “The next time you have a tomato, please think, where does this come from? We need to understand and change the system of exploitation.”

After testimonials, the floor was opened for questions. One speaker started by saying that he respected the rights of students to express their views and asked for the students to respect his choice to patronize Taco Bell and further stated he hoped the administration would allow the market forces of consumer demand in response to the boycott to determine whether Taco Bell chooses to stay. Nicole, a campus organizer for the campaign, replied that while it is nice to respect rhetoric that this issue is not about a conflict of rhetoric. The proposed ban is about preventing U of Chicago’s complicity in the real experience of suffering by workers such as Francesca.

The demands of students are three-fold: 1) kick out and replace the Taco Bell in Hutch Commons, a university dining hall; 2) that no Hutch workers lose work or pay; and 3) that the administration write a letter to Aramark, the university food service provider, explaining its policy. They asked that the U of Chicago administration respond by Friday to demands and administration officials present (with whom dialog was cordial) said they would do their best.

To date, the student-farmworker coordinated campaign against Taco Bell has resulted in successes: several universities (Notre Dame, U.C. Berkeley) refusing to make new franchise agreements with Taco Bell; a Diocese in Indiana cancelled a contract with Pizza Hut (a sister company of Taco Bell) for food service to 30 high schools; and Duke University had Taco Bell products taken off the shelf. Brian, a Taco Bell Truth Tour campaign organizer, said that there have been preliminary discussions with Taco Bell but no action to improve the conditions of workers.

After the talk, students were treated to free, yummy Mexican food.

For more info on the Taco Bell Truth Tour see the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website, www.ciw-online.org/. To express send letters of solidarity, write Leonore at lmpallad (at) midway.uchicago.edu.

by Doug for Indymedia
 
 

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