In declining the Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) “penny per pound” request, Burger King issued the following statement on February 5, 2007:
Over the course of the past year and a half, Burger King Corporation executives have met with CIW representatives more than a dozen times, as well as with religious groups who support the CIW and the Immokalee workers. In addition, Burger King Corporation executives traveled to Immokalee to meet with the group’s leadership and to view living and working conditions first-hand. We agree with the CIW that the workers’ living conditions are, in fact, substandard, and we are sympathetic and concerned about the housing.
We reached our decision for several reasons. Burger King Corporation and its purchasing agent, RSI, do not have a direct relationship with any tomato grower or its employees, as is the case with some of the other large chain restaurants. Instead, we purchase tomatoes–based on best market price–from tomato re-packing companies. It is these re-packing companies that have a relationship with the actual growers who employ the CIW. As a result, we do not identify the specific growers, tomatoes or workers who pick the tomatoes that are used in our restaurants.
To ask Burger King Corporation to pay a penny more a pound for tomatoes to increase workers’ wages is similar to asking shoppers to voluntarily pay a penny more per pound at the grocery store for tomatoes to increase workers’ wages. Both Burger King Corporation and grocery store shoppers have no business relationship with the workers and cannot get the extra penny to them.
Increasing the cost of tomatoes by a penny per pound does nothing to ensure support for the workers directly. Burger King Corporation has no business relationship with the workers and cannot control how they are compensated.
In addition, the Immokalee workers’ typical wages are unclear because of conflicting reports and a general lack of IRS reporting. In an April 2006 study by the Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA), the average hourly wage for Immokalee tomato pickers ranged from $9.65 per hour for the slowest workers to a high of $18.27 per hour for the fastest. The average pay for workers is clearly well above the Florida minimum wage of $6.40 per hour and well above standard wages for similar work.
We have spoken to CIW representatives about our interest in recruiting interested Immokalee workers into the BURGER KING® system. We have offered to send Burger King Corporation recruiters to the area to speak with the CIW and with workers themselves about permanent, full-time employment at BURGER KING® restaurants. Burger King Corporation offers ongoing professional training and advancement opportunities around the country for both entry-level and skilled employee jobs, and we are hopeful the CIW will accept our offer.
We have also spoken to the CIW about the strong interest from the charitable arm of Burger King Corporation, the HAVE IT YOUR WAY™ Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to contribute to non-profit organizations whose goal is to improve education, alleviate hunger or disease or to support youth programs. The Foundation is keenly interested in working with the CIW and others to identify charitable organizations that could improve the lives of the workers and their families.
Additionally, Burger King Corporation stands ready to cooperate with state and federal officials to identify any possible violations of U.S. labor laws, including minimum wage, overtime and child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).