US: Burger King Ends Dispute With Farmworkers Group

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

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

AMP Section Name:Labor