20080116 burger king tomato protest
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers march in protest march of Burger King in Miami. The Coalition is demanding that Burger King pay a premium for its tomatoes to directly improve what they say are workers' sub-poverty wages. - 


Scott Jagow: They say choose your battles and here's one that Burger King has chosen: it's with tomato pickers in Southern Florida. They want a penny more per pound -- that would double their wages and cost BK $250,000 a year.

But for the past two years, Burger King has stood firm and said no. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace's Dan Grech has the latest developments.

Dan Grech: Just after Thanksgiving, the Florida tomato pickers held a large rally outside Burger King headquarters in Miami.

Now it's surfaced that three weeks later, BK sent a note to suppliers saying it may no longer buy tomatoes from southwestern Florida.

Spokesperson Keva Silversmith says the letter is just a normal part of the company's planning.

Keva Silversmith: Our contingency planning is based on a variety of issues, a freeze being one of them, hurricane issues, which are always an issue, as well as a possible labor conflict.

McDonalds and Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, have agreed to the penny per pound raise, but Burger King has refused, says Marc Rodrigues with the Student Farmworker Alliance.

Marc Rodrigues: Once again, instead of sitting down with the workers and coming up with a solution to the problem, they're trying to skirt responsibility. In this case, they're sort of running away from the scene of the crime.

Florida supplies 80 percent of the country's winter tomatoes. Burger King's only alternative may be to buy tomatoes from Mexico.

In Miami, I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.