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“Rotten Tomatoes” Campaign Hits Tennessee

January 28, 2008

Knoxville, TN – A penny a pound doesn't sound like much, but for farm laborers it makes a big difference in pay. So labor groups began picketing Knoxville's Burger King restaurants over the weekend, with the goal of helping Sunshine State tomato pickers. A similar "penny more a pound" campaign convinced McDonald's and Taco Bell to require that their suppliers pay more for the Florida-grown tomatoes they serve in their restaurants.

David Linge with Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee says farm workers need that extra penny, because they rarely make minimum wage - and haven't had a pay raise since 1980.

"To get up to the minimum wage, these workers would have to pick 2.5 tons of tomatoes in 10 hours. That means picking and carrying 301 pounds an hour for 10 hours. At the same time, corporate profits have gone up. They're more profitable, to some extent, on the backs of workers."

Tomato field workers are exempt from state and federal minimum wage laws. Burger King has said it's not within the company's control to set the farm workers' pay. More information on the issue can be found online, at

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - TN