I admit it: I love fast food. Lately I've been trying to eat healthier, but sometimes I can't resist the lure of some McDonalds fries or a Burger King "Tendergrill" chicken sandwich. I spread my business around to Wendy's, Mickey D's, Burger King, Arby's--generally whatever is most convenient at the moment. Whenever I get to California, I make a beeline to In 'N Out Burger.
However, this week's flurry of unnerving news stories and op-eds have made it easy for me to decide to boycott Burger King. Here's why:
Taco Bell and McDonald's have signed an agreement to pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes directly toward migrant tomato-pickers' wages. Since fast food chains are America's top buyer of tomatoes, this extra cent per pound raises the workers' payment to about 77 cents per 32-pound bucket that they pick. The migrant workers, some of the most unprotected and lowest-paid laborers in America, receive an average annual income of $10,000 to $12,000.
However, Burger King has said no to the penny. By doing so, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange realized it can get away without the extra one cent of overhead, and now the deals with McDonalds and Taco Bell are under threat. Eric Schlosser writes in the New York Times, "the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has threatened a fine of $100,000 for any grower who accepts an extra penny per pound for migrant wages." The tomato pickers may now be forced to take a crushing pay cut.
Inhuman greed is the only explanation for Burger King's refusal. Schlosser estimates it would cost Burger King about $250,000 per year to pay the penny per pound. They have this money. In 2006, The top 12 executives at Goldman Sachs, a major shareholder of Burger King, earned over $200 million in bonuses.
In response to outrage over Burger King's refusal to help the migrant workers on whom they depend, Burger King put out an press release outrageously and emptily encouraging the migrant workers to apply to work at their restaurants.
This is disgusting behavior by a company that clearly cares only about dollars and cents, not human decency. The only way to persuade them to do the right thing is to hit them where it hurts--their bottom line.
Spread the word and boycott Burger King.
Dan Brown is the author of the urban teacher memoir, "The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle."