Burger King rejects tomato price hike, but offers job help

Published February 7, 2007

MIAMI - Burger King said it won't help boost wages for Florida farmworkers by paying more for the tomatoes on its Whopper, but it will send recruiters to help the workers find jobs at its restaurants.

Florida tomato pickers won a penny-per-pound raise through a boycott against Taco Bell two years ago and had been in talks with Burger King about a similar plan.

But negotiations fell apart, and the world's second-largest burger chain said Monday it rejected the call by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

"If you're going to pay people for a measure of work, it's important to measure the work and a person accurately," said Steve Grover, head of quality assurance and regulatory affairs for Miami's Burger King Corp. He said he wasn't convinced that could be done under the coalition's proposal.

Burger King said that it based the decision on the fact that it has no direct relationship with the growers. Unlike Taco Bell, it purchases tomatoes from repackaging companies, generally located near the farms where the tomatoes are picked.

Lucas Benitez, a farmworker and organizer for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said Burger King's statement amounted to little more than a public relations effort and "a slap in the face."