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Florida tomato pickers won a penny-per-pound raise through a boycott against Taco Bell two years ago and had been in talks with Burger King about a similar plan. But negotiations fell apart, and the world's second-largest burger chain said Monday it rejected the call by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
"If you're going to pay people for a measure of work, it's important to measure the work and a person accurately," says Steve Grover, head of quality assurance and regulatory affairs for Miami-based Burger King Corp. He said he wasn't convinced that could be done under the coalition's proposal.
Burger King says that it based the decision on the fact that it has no direct relationship with the growers. Unlike Taco Bell, it purchases tomatoes from repackaging companies, generally located near the farms where the tomatoes are picked.
"We do not identify the specific growers, tomatoes, or workers who pick the tomatoes that are used in our restaurants," the company says in a statement, adding that it saw no guarantee that paying more for tomatoes would lead to higher wages for workers.
The chain, owned by Burger King Holdings Inc., also cited results from a now-discredited April 2006 study by the nonprofit Center for Reflection, Education and Action. That study, commissioned by McDonald's Corp., showed many workers earned well above the state's minimum wage of $6.40 per hour.
Instead, Burger King offered to send recruiters to the farming town of Immokalee to help the tomato workers find jobs at its franchise restaurants.