Saturday, August 01, 2009

A little while ago Molly blogged on the case of Chipotle and their connection to the exploitation of farmworkers in the USA. Here's another communication from the American Rights at Work group, asking for more pressure on the company.
Since we wrote to you a few weeks ago, more than 10,000 activists have urged Chipotle to stand up for exploited Florida farmworkers.

Momentum is building. People around the country have been calling on Chipotle to live up to its “food with integrity” promise – and now they’ve taken their demands to the streets, protesting in front of film screenings sponsored by Chipotle.

Can you back them up by sending a quick email to Chipotle’s management?
Urge Chipotle to make "food with integrity" truly fair food.

Here’s what’s happening: hoping for a bit of good publicity, Chipotle has been sponsoring screenings of Food, Inc., a new documentary about injustices in the food system.

It's a good film – but Chipotle doesn’t seem to be getting the film’s message. It has refused to join in a formal agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers – a widely respected farmworker organization – to improve the rights and working conditions of the Florida farmworkers who pick many of its tomatoes. These farmworkers have one of the worst jobs in America, with sub-poverty wages, back-breaking labor, and unimaginable exploitation.

Activists have been demonstrating outside Chipotle’s movie screenings to point out the hypocrisy. Chipotle has tried to stop the message from spreading – even going so far as to remove volunteers from tables they’ve reserved at the screenings!

Chipotle is digging in its heels. We’ve got to keep the pressure on.
Tell Chipotle to help end the exploitation today!

More than two dozen leading writers, organizers, filmmakers, and farmers – including the director of the documentary Chipotle is sponsoring – have signed an open letter calling on Chipotle to do the right thing and use its influence to protect farmworkers’ rights.
Please join them by adding your name to the petition.

Chipotle can't have it both ways. The company can't claim to stand for "food with integrity" while ignoring worker exploitation in its supply chain. We're going to keep turning up the heat until Chipotle lives by its own "food with integrity" pledge.
Thanks you for all that you do.
Liz, Manny, Elizabeth B., and the American Rights at Work team

P.S. Click here to check out the open letter signed by two dozen leaders of the sustainable food movement – including the director of the new documentary about injustice in the food system. Then, add your name.

P.P.S. Be sure to forward this message to all your friends and family so they know what Chipotle's up to. The best way to make sure Chipotle does the right thing is to spread the word as widely as possible.
Please go to THIS LINK to sign the following online petition to Chipotle.
We write with admiration for your efforts to create a socially just and environmentally responsible restaurant chain. We applaud your goal of sourcing "food with integrity," food that's "unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal." Chipotle points the way to a new business model for national-scale restaurant chains: rather than scouring the globe for the cheapest commodities, restaurants should source in a region-appropriate way - bolstering and not undercutting regional food production networks.

Yet for us, naturally raised meat - important as it is - does not trump decently treated human beings. We are outraged by the working and living conditions in the Immokalee area of Florida, source of some 90 percent of the winter tomatoes consumed in the United States. We see Immokalee as a stark example of the vast power discrepancies in our food system. In the winter-tomato market, a small number of very large buyers dictate terms to the seven or eight entities that control land in tomato country; those growers, in turn, squeeze the workers in brutal fashion. Real wages have fallen dramatically in Immokalee over the decades and now hover well below poverty level; housing conditions would not be out of place in apartheid-era South Africa. These are the normal conditions experienced by thousands of workers in south Florida. No one can be surprised that in some extreme cases, right now, some of the people who pick our tomatoes are living in what can only be called modern-day slavery: held against their will and forced to harvest tomatoes without pay. In this context, Chipotle cannot claim the same integrity for the tomatoes it serves as it does for its meat, much less guarantee its customers that the tomatoes in its burritos were not picked by slaves.

We realize that Chipotle has announced that it's paying an extra penny per pound for tomatoes, but we have to ask: What has Chipotle done since that announcement to identify and cultivate growers who are willing to raise their labor standards and pass the penny along to their workers? Your company has shown admirable leadership in working with - and incubating - meat suppliers willing to meet your higher standards. But your failure to do that same hard work in the Florida tomato industry - together with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) - threatens to render your announcement an empty gesture aimed more at public relations damage control than an effort to make real change.

We view the CIW's struggle for dignity as a non-negotiable part of the struggle for a sustainable food system. Therefore, we strongly urge you to enter into an agreement with this worker-led organization that has been fighting tirelessly to improve conditions in tomato country since 1993. As you know, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has acted to block the penny-per-pound raise agreed to by McDonald's, Yum Brands, Burger King and others, by threatening to fine any grower who cooperates with the buyers and the CIW. The extra penny paid out by these companies now sits in an escrow account, and workers in the fields continue making the same dismal wage. The growers clearly fear the power tomato pickers have galvanized through the efforts of the CIW and Chipotle's refusal to sign an agreement with the CIW only bolsters the growers' intransigence.

Last month, another national-scale food company with a social mission, Bon Appetit, signed a far-reaching deal with CIW that goes well beyond the penny per pound raise. We urge you to study the CIW-Bamco agreement and step up your efforts to identify growers - big or small - who will work with you to make "food with integrity" truly "fair food."

If Chipotle is sincere in its wishes to reform its supply chain, the time has come to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as a true partner in the protection of farmworkers rights.

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