Tricon Restaurants – Implement a Code of Conduct for Tomato Suppliers that Addresses Worker Rights (2001 – 2002)

Outcome: Successfully Withdrawn

For the past decade, corporations that market and sell apparel and footwear have been the focus of consumer and shareholder pressure to ensure that their products are not made in sweatshops.
In his widely acclaimed book  Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser warns:  The same tactics employed by the antisweatshop groups can be used to help workers much closer to home. Schlosser advocates the use of consumer pressure to force fast food restaurants, such as Tricon, to require that their suppliers respect labor rights.
Tricon subsidiary Taco Bell is one of the major buyers of fresh tomatoes in America.
Taco Bell is the focus of a campaign by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in support of the farm-workers who pick the tomatoes used by our company. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has helped organize well over 100 demonstrations at Taco Bell restaurants from Florida to California. This campaign has also attracted considerable national and international media coverage that stands to tarnish Tricon s brands and good reputation.
In general, farm-workers receive no overtime pay, health insurance, sick leave, paid holidays or vacation, or pension. Moreover, farm-workers are exempt from the U.S. federal laws that protect the rights of virtually all other American workers to organize or join unions and engage in collective bargaining.
Apparel and footwear companies have demonstrated that setting workplace standards for their suppliers protects and enhances the value of their brands and image.
That the Board issue a report, prepared at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, to shareholders by October 2002, outlining the steps that Tricon will take to draft and implement a code of conduct for the company s tomato suppliers that addresses basic standards of worker rights.
As a matter of both good corporate citizenship and good business practice, we believe that Tricon has the responsibility to enter into a dialogue with both its tomato suppliers and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to draft a code of conduct that addresses basic standards of worker rights for those who pick Tricon s tomatoes.
As shareholders, we are gravely concerned over the growing boycott of Taco Bell by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. We are particularly concerned that Taco Bell s target market of young people aged 18-24 is also the same age range as those most likely to protest or boycott a company over its suppliers workplace practices.
We fear that failure to address this issue puts at risk not only Tricon s brands and good reputation but also our company s future sales and profitability.
Tricon has already demonstrated its power to require that its suppliers meet standards for the humane treatment of farm animals. As shareholders, we believe that it is in the long-term interest of Tricon to ensure also that its suppliers treat their farm-workers with fairness and respect.

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