Student group say Burger King is responsible for “modern-day slavery” in Florida

About 30 people, including students and faculty, discussed “modern-day slavery” in America and how Burger King contributes to the issue.

Students Toward A New Democracy (STAND) hosted Tuesday’s event, which was inspired by the plight of three farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., who escaped from an oppressive tomato-harvesting employer on Nov. 20 and informed authorities of the bad conditions and treatment they endured.

Activist groups such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers argue that the bad conditions are partially due to corporate giant Burger King’s overall lack of care for farmers and their power to purchase crops in bulk, which decreases wages for workers.

Cruz Salucio, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said through a translator that the workers are frequently forced to work long hours, without overtime pay or benefits. He said that in extreme cases, theft and violence on the job can occur. Marc Rodriguez, a member of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, translated Salucio’s Spanish.

“We want to talk to you about how the food we eat gets to your plate,” Salucio said. “These are the realities behind these corporations, and how they make their profit, and it’s happening today, in the year 2008.”

Octavio Ramos, a graduate student, spoke about the history of slavery dating back to ancient times.

“The United Nations has a famous number,” he said. “There are close to 40 million people worldwide living under conditions that would be classified as slavery.”

Salucio said a national petition to give deserved rights and fair treatment to migrant workers will be presented to Burger King in late spring. STAND has already presented more than 500 signatures to Burger King’s vice president, said Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, a member of STAND.

STAND also hosted a nine-mile march from downtown Miami to the Burger King headquarters, with more than 1,000 participants.

STAND timeline

-Sept. 7, 2007: STAND members attended an Encuentro, a large meeting involving participants from across the nation with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance.

-Oct. 4, 2007: STAND hosted a forum about farm workers in Florida last semester with more than 70 people in attendance.

-Oct. 24, 2007: STAND held a vigil with the Rev. Frank Corbishley from the on-campus Episcopal Church with more than 60 people in attendance. They held three “speak outs” to educate students about the plight of migrant workers.