Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello will take a few hours off from his day job on Friday (March 5) to hit the Taco Bell — and he won't be ordering a MexiMelt.
Morello, accompanied by Coup rapper/political activist Boots Riley and scores of political activists and farmers, will congregate outside Taco Bell's Irvine, California, national headquarters to protest the organization's relationship with suppliers who allegedly mistreat farm workers. They will also encourage the public to boycott the Bell.
"The farm workers in Immokalee, Florida, who pick the food for Taco Bell get paid starvation wages, while Taco Bell is getting rich off the backs of these impoverished farmers," Morello said. "You and I shouldn't have to violate someone else's human rights just because we want to eat a Chalupa."
The rally will be part of a protest that has been going on since 2001. Axis of Justice, a populist organization co-founded by Morello, chose to protest Taco Bell "because of the egregious human-rights offenses [undertaken by] the companies they employ to pick the tomatoes," Morello said. He also claimed that the workers haven't had a raise in more than 20 years, while in 2002 alone, Taco Bell brought in $5.4 billion in revenue.
"As Cesar Chavez [the Mexican civil rights leader who founded the United Farm Workers in the 1950s] said, 'When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick,' " Morello said.
Laurie Schalow, a spokesperson for Taco Bell, said the Coalition of Immokalee Farm Workers has asked the food chain to pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes, and for the extra money to be passed on to the farmers. However, she noted that even if the company were to implement such a policy, there's no way to ensure the additional money would end up in the hands of farm workers.
"We can't control how much farm workers get paid because they're employed by growers," she said. "Instead of expending all this energy against Taco Bell, they should take this up with the Florida Department of Labor or the federal government."
During the protest, Morello will perform solo as his alter ego the Nightwatchman (see "Tom Morello Rages Against A New Machine On Solo Acoustic Tour"). The Nightwatchman and Riley will rise again on March 31 at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood for the first show of the Axis of Justice concert series. The event, which will benefit numerous charitable and activist organizations that Axis supports, will also feature acoustic performances by Axis co-founder and System of a Down singer Serj Tankian, and former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer. Morello said he hopes Axis will be able to organize one concert per month in and around California (see "Tom Morello, Serj Tankian Break Law To Feed Homeless").
Morello has written approximately 40 Nightwatchman songs, but said he has no plans to release an album. "I enjoy the freedom of [knowing that] when there's a protest or a rally, someone will call up, and I can just put my acoustic guitar and harmonica in a case and head down there. I am not an expert singer, and I am not trained in singing, but I am sincere, and my sincerity is the only credential I need to get up there and tell the truth. And if the truth condemns the powers that be, then the powers that be stand condemned. The Watchman will fan the flames of discontent wherever they arise."