Bishops pressure wins Maccas pay rise

McDonald's in the US has agreed to a substantial pay rise for low-paid tomato-picking farm workers after intensive lobbying by American religious congregations and bishops.

Catholic News Service reports that McDonald's has reached an agreement with a Florida farmworker organisation to pay a penny per pound (3 Australian cents per kilogram) more for tomatoes to increase wages and to improve working conditions for the workers who pick them.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and McDonald's announced on 9 April that they also would work together to develop a new code of conduct for tomato growers and increase farmworkers' participation in monitoring compliance.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and various religious orders and church organisations had been among supporters of the campaign to get an agreement with McDonald's.

Signed in Atlanta, the agreement puts an end to a two-year campaign by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pressure McDonald's to pay more for the 15 million tomatoes it uses annually in US restaurants. McDonald's reportedly buys fewer than 1.5 percent of Florida's tomatoes.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center he heads helped broker the agreement, as he did with a similar agreement two years ago between the coalition and Yum Foods, the owner of Taco Bell and KFC restaurants.

"This is a clear and welcome example of positive industry partnership," said Carter in a press release issued by the coalition, also known as CIW.

The pay increase will mean workers who now receive 40 to 45 cents for picking a 32-pound (14 kg) bucket of tomatoes will earn 72 to 77 cents (AU$1) per bucket, according to Florida newspapers.

Last September, the chairman of the US bishops' Committee on Domestic Policy urged McDonald's to use the company's purchasing power to insist that produce suppliers meet high ethical standards in how they treat workers.

This year, the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan also joined the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund in filing a shareholder's resolution with McDonald's pressing for a companywide code of conduct for suppliers and contractors based on the International Labor Organisation's principles. Co-filers included the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa, and the Jesuits of the New Orleans province of the Society of Jesus.

McDonald's, tomato pickers reach agreement supported by U.S. Catholic bishops (Catholic Online, 11/4/07)
McDonald's to pay more for tomatoes after much pressure (Taipei Times, 11/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
McDonald's | McDonald's Australia
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Adrian Sisters

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12 Apr 2007