MIAMI A farmworkers advocacy group and Burger King Corp. have agreed on a deal to help boost wages and improve conditions for Florida tomato pickers.
The plan announced Friday ends a bitter dispute between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Miami-based fast-food company, the nation's second biggest hamburger chain.
Burger King joins rivals McDonald's Corp. and Taco Bell owner Yum Brands Inc., which already have similar deals. But whether the workers get a raise depends on the participation of tomato growers who have resisted the agreements.
Under the deal with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Burger King agreed to pay 1.5 cents more per pound of tomatoes it buys from Florida growers, with a penny of that given to workers. To encourage participation, the rest will go to growers to help cover any additional payroll taxes and administrative costs.
The increase roughly doubles the earnings of the workers while they are picking tomatoes, the worker coalition said.
Burger King Vice President Amy Wagner said at a news conference in Washington that the increase for all workers was estimated to be about $250,000. The total cost to Burger King would be about $320,000, including the additional payments for growers.
The farmworkers, likely through the coalition, would be allowed to help monitor conditions in the fields.
Coalition co-founder Lucas Benitez called on other buyers to join Burger King, including Subway, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and organic and natural food grocer Whole Foods Market Inc.
McDonald's and Yum Brands have already agreed to pay a penny more per pound of Florida tomatoes, so long as growers pass the extra money on to workers. Those agreements also call on the companies to work with the coalition to establish a code of conduct for their suppliers.
Since last fall, those deals have existed on paper only because the industry group representing Florida tomato growers refused to allow its members to participate. The coalition expressed hope that the growers would reconsider after Burger King's deal.
Telephone and e-mail messages left for the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange were not immediately returned.