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3/22/2005

The Bell has been rung on Taco chain

In a major victory for immigrant farm workers and boycotting consumers, fast-food giant Taco Bell Corp. has agreed to work with a Florida-based labour organisation to increase the wages and improve the working conditions of thousands of workers in the state's huge tomato industry.

The agreement, announced Tuesday, provides that Taco Bell will pay an additional penny per pound (one kilo = 2.2 pounds) of tomatoes to its Florida suppliers on the condition that they pass the money along to the farm workers.

It also pledged to purchase tomatoes only from those growers who agree to the scheme and to press other major tomato buyers to do the same.

For its part, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) agreed to declare an end to its four-year boycott against Taco Bell. The boycott was supported by the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Oxfam America, and the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, among other organisations, as well as actor Martin Sheen and the former head of the UN Commission for Human Rights and president of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

"This is an important victory for farm workers, one that establishes a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry and makes an immediate material change in the lives of workers," said Lucas Benitez, a leader of the CIW.

"It sends a clear challenge to other industry leaders," he added.

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