From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Letter informing middle governing bodies of settlement

Date Wed, 9 Mar 2005 12:38:41 -0600

Note #8665 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

March 8, 2005

Letter informing middle governing bodies of settlement ending Taco Boy

Dear Friends in Christ:

With great joy we write to announce that the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers and Yum Brands, Taco Bell's parent company, have reached an historic
agreement that concretely improves Florida farmworkers' wages and working
conditions. In accord with actions of the General Assembly, and at the
request of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), we call upon all members
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to immediately cease boycotting Taco Bell
and to join with the CIW and Yum Brands in advancing the gains for human
rights made today throughout the fast-food industry.

Accompanying this letter is the public statement Cliff made at the
CIW-Yum Brands' press conference on Tuesday, March 8, in Louisville, and the
joint press release from the Coalition and the company. A public celebration
of this significant achievement will feature the Immokalee farmworkers,
representatives from Yum Brands, representatives from the PC(USA), actor
Martin Sheen, and human rights supporters from across the country. It will be
held at noon on Saturday, March 12, at the Presbyterian Center, 100
Witherspoon Street, in Louisville. For background and updates please visit

This landmark agreement would not have been possible without the
strong witness of Presbyterians across the country. Many members and
congregations prayed, fasted, wrote letters, protested, and provided
hospitality or material support to the Coalition as they sought to establish
socially responsible purchasing by Yum Brands, the largest fast-food company
in the world. Today, the company has stepped forward to work together with
the Coalition, not only meeting their demands, but leading the way toward
industry-wide support for human rights.

The details of the agreement are in the CIW-Yum Brands joint press
release, which also accompanies this letter. One critical component of the
agreement is that Taco Bell has agreed to pay one penny more per pound for
the tomatoes it purchases from Florida, and has worked with its purchasing
cooperative, UFPC and its tomato suppliers, to pass that penny along to the
farmworkers they employ. This establishment of supply chain responsibility
affirms that through our work we are connected to one another, and that large
end-buyers must likewise be a part of ensuring the well-being of those whose
labor contributes to such profit. These principles form the cornerstone for
changing current business practice in the fast-food industry. Not only has
Yum Brands begun by making these change in their own supply chain, the
company has dedicated itself to advancing this principle throughout the
fast-food industry in partnership with the CIW. This is a true, shared
victory for human rights.!
It is a victory for the farmworkers, for the company, and for consumers.

This agreement is also a victory for the church in our public witness
to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who as a poor person himself brought good news
among his own people and to those "with ears to hear," challenging the
institutions and leaders of his day to affirm and ensure the well-being and
dignity of poor people as part of God's community. From the parable of the
workers in the vineyard where the landowner in the kingdom of heaven
establishes a wage-floor below which no laborer can fall, to Christ's
insistence that the poor are blessed and that the kingdom of God is theirs,
we know God's intention is for us to live together in ways that promote the
flourishing of every person. Presbyterians as workers, executives,
franchisers, and consumers, are children of God, responsible to one another
and to our Lord for our stewardship of creation. Through our work we
demonstrate love for our neighbor and witness to God's intention of shalom.
"As Christians, we understand that God !
has called us, called us to a specific way of living together. This way is
not exclusively how we treat each other in our separate church bodies, but in
the whole of our lives" (God's Work in Our Hands, 1995). We are reminded as
Christians that "We are not only to share our resources individually with one
another; we are to help fashion institutions which foster justice and
well-being in the community" (Christian Faith and Economic Justice, 1984).
The Presbyterian Church has embodied this social witness in our work over the
past years with the Coalition and Yum Brands.

In years to come, we will look back on this moment as a turning point
in history, and we have cause to celebrate because Presbyterians have been at
the heart of this change. As the CIW was forming, the then small group of
Mexican, Guatemalan, and Haitian farmworkers was awarded a Self-Development
of People grant through Peace River Presbytery. From the earliest days of
public witness-labor stoppages, the thirty-day hunger strike, the 230 march
to Tallahassee-members of Tampa Bay and Peace River Presbyteries supported
the workers, marched alongside them, and prayed for their efforts.

In 2001, the CIW called for a boycott of Taco Bell after discovering
it was a major buyer of the tomatoes they picked, and after the company did
not respond for more than a year for their request to dialogue. Tampa Bay
Presbytery prayerfully deliberated and voted to support the boycott, and they
submitted an overture to the 214th General Assembly (2002). The assembly
concurred and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) became the second national
religious body to support the boycott. Through the leadership of the PC(USA),
other religious communions and the National Council of Churches learned about
the workers' conditions and joined the boycott.

Because of the strength of the church's participation in the boycott,
the PC(USA) was able to open dialogue between top Yum Brands executives and
members of the CIW. These initial talks in May 2003 and another round of
talks that were convened by the PC(USA) and held at the Carter Center during
the spring of 2004, paved the way for the dialogue this year that issued in
this landmark agreement. Meanwhile Presbyterian members, congregations,
presbyteries, and synods continued to observe the boycott, spread the word,
and insist that businesses can and should operate in ways that promote human
well-being. Together with the CIW, Presbyterians called upon Yum Brands to
"lead by example." On this day, we celebrate that they have taken up that
challenge and promise.

But the significance of this agreement is in the promise it holds for
transforming the entire fast-food industry and the responsibility it confers
on each one of us as consumers to walk with CIW and Yum Brands into this
future. Together, we must ensure that this momentous first step charts a sure
and clear path for other major fast-food buyers to follow. Together, as
Mahatma Gandhi said, "we must be the change we wish to see in the world."

With gratitude for the faithful witness of the Presbyterian Church,
we ask you to forward this letter and the accompanying press releases
throughout your presbyteries and synods, so that congregations may join the
workers, the company, and all settings of the church in celebrating this
historic achievement.

In Christ's peace,

Rick Ufford-Chase
Moderator of the 216th General Assembly (2004)
Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, PC(USA)
John Detterick
Executive Director of the General Assembly Council
Noelle Damico
National Coordinator of the Taco Bell Boycott, PC(USA)

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