The Immokalee Workers Get a Raise

Eleana Berkowitz reports that the Immokalee workers have won their ongoing campaign against Taco Bell, receiving their long-demanded raise of a penny per pound of tomatoes. Yeah, you read that right. They've spent the last 8 years organizing against the contractor, and turned their attention towards Taco Bell (who buys from the contractor) in in 2001. And yet the chain fought their miniscule demands tooth-and-nail. Be honest -- would you even notice if they added a cent onto the Chalupa? Of course not. Those things are so cheap that my friends and I pause before we eat them to check for rat meat. But now the tomatoes in them, picked by immigrants who haven't received a raise since the 70's (and have watched their real income plummet because of it), will have some modicum of compensation, Si se puede! Pero todavia presionando.

This win holds particular significance for me. My first self-directed political act ever, as a senior in high school, attending an Immokalee march. I brought along three of my friends (one of whom I was interested in -- major points) and we all marched to Taco Bell. To this day, I have the chant sheet hanging in my room, reminding me of the giant puppet I carried for a mile, and the first time I felt like an activist.

In the ensuing period, as I watched the Immokalee merge with students group and kick the Bell off various campuses (including mine) with little coverage beyond school newspapers, I grew more depressed about their prospects. As I watched the anti-war movement marginalized and judged impotent, I discarded protesting as anything but an anachronism. And who knows, maybe I was right. Elana's article argues that the students were actually, sadly, the crucial members of the coalition, as they were threatening the franchises and promising bad publicity. But whichever group pushed the movement over the tipping point, the CIW won, thousands of pickers are about to be lifted out of poverty, and future drives will take heart in this one's success. Si se puede!

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