To the Editor:
Your Friday feature story on boycotts (The Vanguard, April 23,2004) was a useful addition to our school’s conversation aboutunethical business contracts by PSU with unethical, immoralcorporations like Taco Bell and Coca-Cola. The nationalcoordinators of the Taco Bell Boycott, the Coalition of ImmokaleeWorkers (CIW), sent two boycott organizers who spoke at PSU onApril 12, detailing some of the work they done, as an organization,to win the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy human rights award-the first timethe award was given to a domestic NGO.
Progressive Student Union was able to bring CIW’s Julia Perkinsand Francisca Cortez to speak at PSU, in order to cancel ourschool’s Taco Bell contract, in support of the Florida farm workerboycott for a living wage. In Oregon, only PSU and Lane CommunityCollege have Taco Bells in our cafeterias. As Julia and Franciscanoted, six colleges have cancelled their Taco Bell contracts, andtoday, there are now five colleges across the country wherestudents are doing rotating hunger strikes to try to force TacoBell off campus. At Notre Dame, there are now 150 studentsparticipating in that college’s hunger strike against Taco Bell, insupport of the boycott.
For almost two years, activist PSU students have urged the PSUAdministration to “do the right thing” (in Spike Lee’s phrase) andkick Taco Bell off campus. But, as student groups at PSU have cometo expect, there is a good deal of “process” which the PSUAdministration uses to “contain” activist issues, per se, even sucha clear case of “sweatshops in the fields” and “modern-dayslavery.” Our CIW speakers noted that their organization hasassisted the U.S. Justice Department in prosecuting five cases ofmodern-day slavery in that “Third World country” which doubles asone of our 50 states, Florida.
Many of the farm workers in Florida are immigrants from Haiti,El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. As Robert F. Kennedy himselfsaid about the grape boycott organized by Cesar Chavez and the UFWa few years ago, at a certain point, is important for people andinstitutions to “do the right thing,” not just what fits yourprofit margin (especially at a public educational institution) orwhat your bureaucratic “process” deems an issue that can be”managed” until such issues die down.
There are plenty of feasible alternatives to Taco Bell in thePSU cafeteria, including another faux-Mexican chain, Taco Time, orlocal, more organic/nutritious options like Ol� Ol�or Cha Cha Cha. It is past time for more “process” or more”research”; the time for action is now.
Lew Church, Member
PSU Progressive Student