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US: Burger King Ends Dispute
With Farmworkers Group


Associated Press
May 23rd, 2008

MIAMI -- Burger King Corp. and a farmworkers advocacy group announced a deal Friday to end a bitter dispute by trying to boost wages and improve conditions for Florida tomato pickers.

The No. 2 hamburger chain joins rivals McDonald's Corp. and Taco Bell owner Yum Brands Inc., which already have similar deals. But whether the workers get a raise depends on the participation of tomato growers who have resisted the agreements.

Under the deal with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Burger King agreed to pay 1.5 cents more per pound of tomatoes it buys from Florida growers, with a penny of that given to workers. To encourage participation, the rest will go to growers to help cover any additional payroll taxes and administrative costs.

Burger King CEO John Chidsey apologized for negative comments the Miami-based company may have made in the past about the coalition, adding the group has been at the forefront of improving farmworker lives.

"We are pleased to now be working together with the CIW to further the common goal of improving Florida tomato farmworkers' wages, working conditions and lives," he said in a statement. "Today we turn a new page in our relationship and begin a new chapter of real progress for Florida farmworkers."

The farmworkers, likely through the coalition, would be allowed to help monitor conditions in the fields. The increase roughly doubles the earnings of the workers while they are picking tomatoes, the coalition said.

Burger King Vice President Amy Wagner said at a news conference in Washington that the increase for all workers was estimated to be about $250,000. The total cost to Burger King would be about $320,000, including the additional payments for growers.

The agreement comes a week after the company owned by Burger King Holdings Inc. fired two executives, following the disclosure that a vice president secretly posted blogs slamming the coalition. The company also said it severed ties with a private investigation firm whose president allegedly posed as a student activist to infiltrate the group and its supporters.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press





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