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Statement by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Talks in the Tomato Industry

By Jimmy Carter



ATLANTA.... I have followed with concern for a number of years the appalling working conditions in the Florida-based tomato industry. While production costs in the industry have increased over the last 25 years, wages have been effectively stagnant, as giant cooperative buying mechanisms hold prices down. Conditions are so bad in parts of the industry that there have been two separate prosecutions for slavery in recent years.

In recent years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been publicly campaigning to bring attention to these abuses of human rights and for industry-wide change. In particular, CIW has led a campaign to ask Taco Bell, a subsidiary of YUM! Brands, Inc., the world's largest restaurant company, to accept responsibility for ensuring that its profits are not derived from the abuses of workers in its supply chain.

Recently, YUM! and CIW have been in private talks, convened by the Presbyterian Church (USA), to try to identify tangible ways to resolve the problems in the tomato industry. Regrettably, the latest round, which included talks held at The Carter Center, was not successful. On May 20, Taco Bell issued a statement that YUM! CEO David Novak has called a "proposed solution." Mr. Novak's proposal involves, first, the CIW calling off its boycott and, second, a statement that Taco Bell would be willing to work toward an industry-wide solution to pay and conditions. While YUM!'s belated acknowledgement of the need for improved pay and conditions is welcome, this cannot be considered a serious proposal. YUM! is saying that only if the CIW ends its boycott will it be willing to support efforts to improve wages, and only if the rest of the industry does. This is a lost opportunity for the head of the world's largest restaurant company to take the lead in eliminating human rights abuses that he knows exist within his supply chain.


The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. To learn more about The Carter Center, please visit:

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