During college, I boycotted mega stores linked to exploited workers and supported Ralph Nader. After college, I cavorted with wealthy Republicans and shamefully ducked in to Wal-Mart Supercenter from time-to-time. Hopefully, the idealism of the 100-some college students traveling to Miami for a protest at Burger King headquarters Friday will last longer than mine.
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Two buses will carry students and farmworkers to Miami from Immokalee, an isolated farming town where the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance are based. The allied groups are leading calls for Burger King to pay tomato pickers a penny more per pound and have successfully convinced McDonald’s and Taco Bell’s parent company to do the same. On Thursday, students arrived on flights from places like New York City, Chicago and California to crash at a homeless shelter and community center in Immokalee. Friday’s protest is set from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. outside BK headquarters at 5505 Blue Lagoon Drive.
Marc Rodrigues, a 26-year-old SFA national coordinator who joined the group as a Queens College student in 2004, said the fight for better pay resonates with students concerned with businesses that run “sweatshop” operations while trying to tempt students with late-night fast-food runs. Rodrigues said the SFA is disgusted by a proposal BK made to the groups to train farmworkers for their restaurants: “which is a pretty ridiculous offer. Who is going to pick their tomatoes?” At Friday’s protest, Rodrigues said the groups plan to announce a major Miami march and concert in late November that they hope will coincide with BK’s shareholder meeting. --Janine Zeitlin