For the tomatoes used at Wendy’s, Florida farm workers earn 30 to 40 cents per bucket they pick, an activist’s spokesperson said.
At a conversation on poor working conditions of Floridian farmers, most of whom are immigrants, Oscar Otzoy, a representative of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, told students at the Gator Wesley Foundation Tuesday night to boycott the two fast food locations on campus. Uriel Perez, a national faith co-coordinator for the Alliance for Fair Food, translated Otzoy’s presentation.
“If you care about justice, if you care about the people that are here, you need to do business the right way,” Otzoy said in Spanish through the translator.
The Coalition for Immokalee Workers uses peaceful marches, protests and hunger strikes to advocate for better working conditions, he said.
UF students have held their own marches on campus to protest Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program, a partnership between farm workers and retail stores to improve farm workers’ working conditions.
While 90 percent of the tomato industry in Florida abides by the Fair Food Program, the remaining 10 percent of workers in the industry are still subject to long days in the heat, Otzoy said.
“There were conditions of forced labor, physical violence and gender-based violence that continues to be a reality for farm workers across the world,” Otzoy said.
Combining grassroots activism with its Fair Food Program, the coalition is applying pressure to companies that are contributing to the unjust wages and inhumane working conditions faced by farm workers, Otzoy said.
The program asks corporations to pay farm workers one cent more for every pound of tomatoes picked, listen to the needs of farm workers and adopt a worker-created code of conduct that implements a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and discrimination, he said.
Four of the top five fast-food companies, including McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell and Burger King, have already joined the Fair Food Program, Otzoy said. Wendy’s, however, has yet to jump on board.
The Coalition for Immokalee Workers asked Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, but the company continues to find ways to avoid an agreement, Otzoy said. The coalition has called for students to partake in marches and boycotts in the past.
Amanda Bunn, a 20-year-old UF plant science junior, attended the event because she is passionate about social issues in her community.
“We’ve been to a lot of marches,” Bunn said. “We are just trying to get involved in justice for people.”
When Bunn heard about the coalition’s panel, she seized the opportunity to learn more about the struggles of local farm workers.
“It was amazing to hear from someone who has gone through this experience and is working on the ground to make change,” Bunn said.