While Chipotle deserves recognition for their continued commitment to sustainable food sourcing practices, the real champions here are the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (with farm-working stakeholders based in Florida’s tomato fields) and their broader Campaign for Fair Food. The news comes on the eve of a labor rights demonstration that was to take place this weekend in Denver & Chicago, to contrast Chipotle’s sponsored “Cultivate” Festivals, purportedly celebrating food, farmers, chefs, artisans, thought leaders, and musicians. But CIW rightfully asked, what is sustainability without justice for workers?
“Ninety percent of the tomatoes we eat between November and May come from Florida, and workers who pick them have long faced extremely difficult conditions,” says Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Toster, writing on Chipotle’s hypocrisy in the Huffington Post.
Despite being approached by CIW multiple times over the last few years, Chipotle has been a laggard in the Fair Food campaign–behind Taco Bell, of all chains, which signed the fair wage agreement with CIW in 2005! Chipotle’s sourcing techniques (and its lesser known waste management efforts) has given it a marketing carte blanche to position its chains as sustainable. Under scrutiny, Chipotle’s major claims relate to meat sourcing (avoidance of hormones, antibiotics, humanely raised, etc.), but not to its produce. Now, more of your feel-good take-out bill goes to the people who we rely on most–farm-workers! Full press release below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CHIPOTLE SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH CIW TO JOIN FAIR FOOD PROGRAM
DENVER, October 4, 2012 – Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker-based human rights organization, have reached an agreement that brings Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable food to the CIW’s Fair Food Program. The agreement, which will improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers in Florida who pick tomatoes for Chipotle, comes in advance of the winter tomato-growing season, when most of the nation’s tomatoes come from growers in Florida.
The Fair Food Program provides a bonus for tomato pickers to improve wages and binds growers to protocols and a code of conduct that explicitly include a voice for workers in health and safety issues, worker-to-worker education on the new protections under the code, and a complaint resolution procedure which workers can use without fear of retaliation. The Program also provides for independent third party audits to ensure compliance.
“With this agreement, we are laying down a foundation upon which we all – workers, growers, and Chipotle – can build a stronger Florida tomato industry for the future,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “But more than this, today’s news marks a turning point in the sustainable food movement as a whole, whereby, thanks to Chipotle’s leadership, farmworkers are finally recognized as true partners — every bit as vital as farmers, chefs, and restaurants — in bringing ‘good food’ to our tables.”
“Chipotle has an unmatched track record driving positive change in the nation’s food supply and is continuously working to find better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use — sources that produce food in ways that demonstrate respect for the land, farm animals, and the people involved,” said Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle. “We believe that this agreement underscores our long-standing commitment to the people who produce the food we serve in our restaurants.”
Chipotle becomes the 11th company to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, which is designed to create a sustainable tomato industry through respect for the rights and concerns of all involved. The Fair Food Premium paid by participating buyers like Chipotle is used to help participating growers improve wages and working conditions for Florida farmworkers.
The CIW (www.ciw-online.org) is a community-based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks modern working conditions for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international human rights standards. The CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for fundamental farm labor reforms, through the Fair Food Program, from retail food industry leaders. The Fair Food Program taps the unique powers of all the elements of our country’s food industry:
- of consumers, to demand the highest ethical standards for food production;
- of food retailers, to use their tremendous buying power both to demand higher labor standards of their suppliers and help raise farmworkers out of poverty through a price that supports sustainable production;
- of growers, to continuously improve their operations and meet consumer demand, keeping pace with an evolving marketplace, and,
- of farmworkers, to help expose and fix the worst abuses and apply their unique knowledge toward modernizing, and humanizing, our farm labor system.
Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. Through our vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that—where possible—are sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food. A similarly focused people culture, with an emphasis on identifying and empowering top performing employees, enables us to develop future leaders from within. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and currently operates more than 1,300 restaurants. For more information, visit Chipotle.com.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Coalition of Immokalee Workers