No. 178, June 13-19, 2002


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Coalition urges Taco Bell boycott

Members of Student Action with Farmworkers demonstrated outside Taco Bell in Asheville, NC, on June 6, 2002, to call for wage increases and other labor rights for tomato pickers.
Photo by Brendan Conley

By Brendan Conley

Asheville, NC, June 6 (AGR)— If you eat a Chalupa Supreme for lunch, you may be helping to exploit farmworkers.  That’s the message of a coalition of students and farmworkers urging a boycott of the Taco Bell restaurant chain.

Around 30 members of Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) marched in front of the Tunnel Road Taco Bell for about an hour June 6, chanting and holding signs and banners.  The protesters handed out fliers reading, “Think twice before you enter,” and displayed an altered restaurant logo reading, “Taco Hell.”

“We support farmworkers making a living wage,” said Melinda Wiggins, an organizer with SAF. “The farmworkers who pick Taco Bell’s tomatoes haven’t had a raise in 20 years.”

SAF is organizing in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a group based in Immokalee, Florida.  According to SAF, workers who pick tomatoes for Six L’s Packing Company, one of the nation’s largest tomato producers and a contractor for Taco Bell, are paid 40 cents for every 32-pound bucket they pick.  That is the same per bucket rate paid in 1978, the group said. Workers picking for Six L’s are denied the right to organize and the right to overtime pay for overtime work, according to SAF.  The farmworkers receive no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid holidays, no paid vacation, and no pension, the group said.

Wiggins said SAF is targeting Taco Bell because it is the largest buyer of tomatoes from Six L’s, and it is a visible consumer outlet.  Taco Bell maintains that because it does not employ farmworkers, but simply buys tomatoes from Six L’s, it has no responsibility.

“This is a labor dispute between the farmworkers and their employer,” said Laurie Gannon, a Taco Bell spokesperson.  “Our policy is not to get involved in other companies’ labor disputes.”  Gannon said that Six L’s is not breaking any labor laws, and if the workers don’t like it, they should go elsewhere.  Taco Bell restaurants are always hiring, she said.

SAF insists that Taco Bell could double the picking piece rate paid to farmworkers by agreeing to pay one penny more per pound for the tomatoes it buys from Six L’s.  SAF, a Durham-based group, coordinates summer internships for students to advocate for farmworkers’ rights.

The group’s Tunnel Road protest drew an angry reaction from the restaurant’s management and a mixed reaction from employees and diners.  Gary Higgins, an Asheville resident buying lunch at the restaurant’s drive-through window, said the boycott would not come between him and his chalupa.  “[The protest] is not fair to the business,” he said.  “These people [protesters] are usually misinformed anyway.”

Employees gathering outside to watch the protest were asked their opinion. 

“If you’re out there protesting, that means you’re strong in what you believe,” said one worker.  He was interrupted by Ricky Deeter, a shift leader at Taco Bell, who said the conversation would have to end. 

“Our employees don’t talk about anything having to do with Taco Bell,” he said.

Jury awards $4.4 million in Bari case

Compiled by Kendra Sarvadi

June 12— On Tuesday, June 11, the jury deciding the Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney federal civil rights lawsuit against four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers awarded the plaintiffs $4.4 million for violation of the activists’ Constitutional rights and returned a verdict largely in favor of Earth First! activists Cherney and the late Judi Bari.

In a legal victory of historic proportions against the FBI, the jury found that six of the seven defendants violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution by arresting the activists, conducting searches of their homes, and carrying out a smear campaign in the press, calling Earth First! a terrorist organization and calling the activists bombers, in the aftermath of the explosion of a bomb that was planted in Judi Bari’s car in 1990. This verdict finds unlawful the actions of those in charge of the bombing investigation, and vindicates Bari and Cherney.

FBI agents Frank Doyle, John Reikes, Philip Sena and OPD officer Mike Sims were found to have violated Bari and Cherney’s First Amendment rights. In addition, OPD officer Michael Sitterud was found to have violated Cherney’s First Amendment rights. Doyle and OPD officer Robert Chenault were found to have violated Bari’s Fourth Amendment rights related to the search of her home, and Doyle and Chenault were found to have violated Cherney’s Fourth Amendment rights. FBI agent Doyle and OPD officer Sims were found to have violated Bari’s Fourth Amendment rights in relation to her arrest. The jury returned an “undecided” verdict with respect to violations of Cherney’s Fourth Amendment rights for his arrest.

Of the $2.9 million in damages for Bari’s estate, $1.3 million is punitive and $1.6 million compensatory.

The jury said Cherney should receive $650,000 in punitive damages and $850, 000 in compensatory damages.

An attorney for the FBI agents said the government, which had fought for 11 years to keep the case from going to trial, indicated that an appeal is likely.

Attorneys for Cherney and Bari’s estate said the verdict should serve as a warning as the FBI seeks broader powers for domestic spying in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The jury showed the rest of America that even in the face of brutal terrorism we cannot discard the very civil liberties that make the country great,” said attorney J. Tony Serra.

“The American public needs to understand that the FBI can’t be trusted,” Cherney said. “Ten jurors got a good, hard look at the FBI and they didn’t like what they saw.”

Cherney and Bari were injured when a pipe bomb exploded in Bari’s Subaru station wagon while they were driving along Park Boulevard in Oakland on May 24, 1990. Bari, who was at the wheel, suffered a crushed pelvis, and Cherney received cuts from the blast.

The two, who were on their way to speak at a rally to promote Redwood Summer, an anti-logging civil disobedience campaign, were arrested within hours, and their homes and vehicles were searched.

Authorities then said they believed that Bari and Cherney were carrying the bomb in her car and that it detonated accidentally.

Cherney and Bari later sued investigators, alleging false arrest, illegal search, slanderous statements and conspiracy.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle,

North Carolina sued over rejected waste dump

By Cat Lazaroff

Raleigh, North Carolina, Jun 4 (ENS)— Four southern states and a regional waste commission are suing the state of North Carolina for its opposition to a planned low-level radioactive waste dump within North Carolina’s borders. The suit accuses North Carolina of failing to meet its obligations as a member of the Southeast Compact Commission, a group charged with building the regional radioactive waste repository.

For full story please go to http//


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