JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The National Council of Churches voted Thursday to join two consumer boycotts over conditions for farm workers, one against Taco Bell and the other targeting Mt. Olive Pickle.
The council, an ecumenical group of 36 Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant denominations, hadn't signed on to a consumer boycott since taking a stand against apartheid 15 years ago. It approved the resolutions at its annual general assembly, held this year in Jackson.
"The hard work is getting out to the local churches throughout the country to say 'no' to Taco Bell ... to say, 'As long as the exploitation continues, we're not going to go to your fast food restaurant,"' said the Rev. Robert Edgar, the NCC's general secretary.
In the case of Mt. Olive pickles, Edgar said church members should say: "We're not going to accept your discounts at the local grocery store."
The NCC's resolution against Taco Bell accused the franchise of buying tomatoes from suppliers who paid substandard wages to farm workers. The group said Department of Labor data shows that the average wage is 40 cents per 32-pound bucket, and hasn't changed in more than 20 years.
"We think that it's unfortunate that they have directed their efforts toward Taco Bell," said Laurie Schalow, a company spokeswoman based in Irvine, Calif. She disputed the wage data.
The NCC says the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a farm workers' union, began the boycott of Mt. Olive in March 1999. The Mt. Olive resolution claims the company has shown "insufficient progress" in improving conditions for farm workers employed by the companies that supply its cucumbers.
Lynn Williams, spokeswoman for North Carolina-based Mt. Olive, said the demands were inappropriate and unrealistic.
"FLOC wants us to bring farmers to the bargaining table, and then for Mt. Olive to participate in the collective bargaining negotiations on behalf of farmworkers," Williams said. "We just don't believe that's an appropriate role for us to play."
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