While Taco Bell is at least a signed contract away from opening on campus, some students are preparing to join a national protest against the fast food chain and its parent company, Yum Brands.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers -- in partnership with the Student/Farmworker Alliance -- is spearheading a national boycott of Taco Bell.
According to the SFA, 21 high schools and universities have "Booted the Bell" from campus because the restaurant chain allegedly engages in unfair labor practices against agricultural workers in Florida -- a claim that Taco Bell strongly denies.
The group says that tomato pickers in Immokalee, Fla., are paid 40-50 cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes picked. At that rate, workers must pick nearly 400 pounds of tomatoes per hour to meet Florida's $6.15 minimum hourly wage standard.
National co-Coordinator of the SFA Sean Sellers argued that Yum Brands -- the largest restaurant company in the world, whose properties include Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut -- pools its purchasing power in an organization known as the Unified Foodservice Purchasing Corporation.
According to Sellers, UFPC is the largest buying agent in the fast food industry; he believes that the corporation is big enough to bring change to the industry if it wanted to.
But Taco Bell disagrees.
"We're among the smallest buyers of tomatoes among all of our competitors in that Florida region -- for anybody to really help the farmers, it has to be an industry-wide change," company spokeswoman Sally George said. "We don't have the leveraging power that people think we have in that area."
Despite the chain restaurant's claims, the SFA is forging ahead with its boycott campaign. It relies on a centralized network that, according to Sellers, does not target campuses, but rather provides help to students who want to start their own campaign -- something that he said has happened at approximately 300 universities and 50 high schools that host Taco Bell.
George disputes the SFA's claims and said that UCLA is the only campus from which Taco Bell was removed because of protests. Other restaurants, she said, have closed for financial reasons.
However, numerous newspapers -- from The Observer of Notre Dame to The Chronicle of Higher Education -- have written about universities severing contracts with Taco Bell because of protests.
While the University of Pennsylvania does not yet have a Taco Bell on campus, Facilities and Real Estate Services spokesman Tony Sorrentino said, "We are aware of the Student/ Farmworker Alliance and have been contacted by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly at Penn to look into this campaign."
Sorrentino said that the University will take these concerns into consideration while negotiations with Taco Bell continue.
While GAPSA does not yet have an official comment, Sorrentino said that he has received significant feedback regarding Taco Bell following recent publicity about the restaurant's planned opening.
Boycott the Bell?
Universities which havecanceled Taco Bell's contract:Chicago,Notre Dame, UCLA andCal. State-San Bernardino 2005 Taco Bell Truth Tour: designed to talk about reasons to boycott, runs Feb. 28 to March 12Comments powered by Disqus
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