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McDonald's Agrees to Pay More for Florida Tomatoes

McDonald's Monday said it has agreed to pay an additional penny per pound for Florida tomatoes, ending farm workers' two-year campaign for the increase.

Beginning in the 2007 growing season, McDonald's' U.S. unit will pay the increase through its produce suppliers, the fast-food company and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers said in a joint statement.

The agreement came days before Florida farm workers were scheduled to stage a demonstration outside of McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, comprised mostly of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants, came to prominence in the 1990s by exposing a series of farm worker abuses and human trafficking cases.

In 2005, it won an agreement with fast-food chain Taco Bell and its parent Yum Brands to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes.

Florida is the source of more than 90% of the fresh winter tomatoes produced in the United States. Largely working on small, individually-owned farms, tomato pickers are currently paid about 45 cents for every 32-pound (14.5 kg) bucket of fruit they pick, with no rights to overtime pay or any other job benefits.

The coalition has said that a penny more for each bucket would raise the pay rate to 77 cents, handing the workers a hefty 71% increase in wages.

The two sides reached the agreement in Atlanta.

Representatives from the Carter Center, which was founded by former President Jimmy Carter, helped broker the deal, the statement said.

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