Update: Chipotle responded to our petition, but their response was not good enough. This remains one of the top performing act.ly petitions of all time. Please sign, ask your friends to sign & re-tweet, and keep Chipotle in the hot seat until they do the right thing!
Here is Chipotle’s inadequate response:
“Have we cut a deal w/ [the Coalition of Immakolee Workers]? No. But we’re working w/ them, & should have growers who will pay more when we buy FL tomatoes.”
Their response is not good enough. Let’s assume that Chipotle is sincere about its commitment to “Food with Integrity.” Let’s assume that Chipotle truly wants to be the leader in supply chain accountability with respect to human rights in the restaurant industry.
If those things are true, then why in the world would Chipotle not seek to forge a true and respectful partnership with the CIW?
If the folks at Chipotle were experts on farm labor issues in Florida, then their refusal to work with the CIW might make some sense. But Chipotle clearly has a lot to learn on the subject. Case in point: While the CIW was helping federal authorities investigate and prosecute the latest slavery case, in which crews held in slavery picked tomatoes for the Immokalee-based tomato giant Six L’s, Chipotle was buying tomatoes from Six L’s. True, Chipotle eventually stopped buying tomatoes from Six L’s, but only after the CIW informed them about the company’s relationship to the slavery case.
So, practically speaking, Chipotle’s best hope for eliminating farm labor abuses in it supply chain lies in working with the CIW, with the workers who are in the fields every day. Chipotle simply cannot go it alone and expect to achieve the same results.
But it’s more than that. You see, philosophically speaking, people are not pigs. You can raise standards for pigs, but to raise farm labor standards, you have to do it with farmworkers.
And that means that the human beings whose fundamental rights are violated on a daily basis in Florida’s fields must be an equal and active part of the solution.
It’s pretty simple, really.
We believe Chipotle can and should be the leader in the fast-food industry for human rights, as well as animal rights. That means listening to criticism, giving workers a voice in the workplace, and going beyond verbal promises to end brutal working conditions in the tomato fields of Florida.
For some reason Chipotle still refuses to do what other companies committed to sustainability — Whole Foods, Bon Appetit – have done: work with the CIW to define industry-leading standards for farmworker rights. And Chipotle’s behavior falls short even when compared to its mainstream rivals in the fast-food industry, like Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonald’s. How will Chipotle’s customers feel when they know about those facts?
It’s never too late for Chipotle to reverse a bad decision. We’re ready when they are.
The original petition to Chipotle follows below:
For decades, Florida’s farmworkers have faced terrible abuses and brutal exploitation. Workers earn sub-poverty wages for toiling 60-70 hours per week, and some have even been chained to poles, locked inside trucks, beaten, and robbed of their pay.
Chipotle, the country’s fastest-growing fast food chain, claims to serve “food with integrity.” But the company has turned its back on farmworkers demanding a lasting commitment to ending the brutal exploitation in Florida’s fields.
Join more than two dozen leading writers, organizers, filmmakers, and farmers – including the director of the documentary Food, Inc. – who have signed an open letter calling on Chipotle to do the right thing and use its influence to protect farmworkers’ rights.
Here’s the open letter:
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.
ChipotleMedia responded 2009-08-13 15:22:40 UTC.
Communications Director & Official Spokesman at Chipotle Mexican Grill.