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Farmworkers to March on McDonald’s

Florida farmworkers are traveling by caravan to McDonald’s Chicagoland headquarters calling on the fast-food giant to help “abolish sweatshops and slavery” in the state’s tomato fields.

With supporters from around the region, they’ll march from a McDonald’s in Pilsen to rally at the near north Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s on Saturday, April 1 — the fifth anniversary of the launch of the group’s successful Taco Bell boycott.

Last year Taco Bell agreed to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato harversters organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which had protested “sweatshop conditions” and carried out a four-year nationwide boycott. CIW has also helped expose forced-labor rings among Florida contractors, including five employers who were prosecuted and convicted on human trafficking and involuntary servitude charges.

The group has met with McDonald’s in recent months but is rejecting a “code of conduct” announced by the corporation, said Melody Gonzalez of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a national network that supports the CIW. The McDonald’s code bans forced labor and child labor, which are already illegal, but doesn’t address issues where farmworkers aren’t covered by labor law like overtime and the right to organize, she said. Unlike the agreement with Taco Bell, farmworkers aren’t involved in setting and monitoring standards, she added.

McDonald’s contractors pay farmworkers 45 cents for a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes — a piece rate that hasn’t changed in 25 years, Gonzalez said.

A delegation including CIW members and supporters will visit McDonald’s Oak Brook headquarters on March 31, said Gonzalez, who’s in Chicago planning for the upcoming actions.

The April 1 march begins at 9:30 a.m. at the McDonald’s at 18th and Blue Island, with a 1 p.m. rally planned at the McDonald’s at Clark and Erie.

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