UPDATE: We won! Chipotle will sign a fair food agreement with the CIW. Yay!

If you believe its marketing hype, you’d think Chipotle does everything it can to source its ingredients ethically. But you just have to unwrap the burrito a little bit to realize the way Chipotle purchases the tomatoes for its salsa undercuts the advances in working conditions Florida farmworkers have fought to win.

Chipotle is refusing to sign the Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of farmworkers who’ve successfully convinced major corporations like Burger King and Subway to participate in a program that helps ensure that tomato pickers are treated well and paid fairly for their work.

Send a message to Chipotle’s CEO Steve Ells, calling for him to commit to real “food with integrity” by signing the Fair Food Agreement.

And it actually gets worse. Chipotle is misleading its customers by trumpeting the work of the CIW on its website. In reality, Chipotle broke off talks with the CIW, opting instead to go it alone — no partnership, no verification, no commitment for the long term. By refusing to partner with the CIW, Chipotle is undercutting the life-changing work the CIW has done to protect farmworkers from the often-brutal conditions workers face at farms not participating in the Fair Food Program.

Since organizing in the mid-90s, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has successfully pressured large corporations like Aramak, Compass Group, and Whole Foods to sign its Fair Food Agreement, guaranteeing a fair wage and worker protections to the men and women who pick tomatoes across Florida. And just this past February, SumOfUs.org members helped convince Trader Joe’s to sign the Fair Food Agreement!

This weekend, CIW is ramping up the pressure on Chipotle by sponsoring a weekend of action where people all over the US will be pressuring Chipotle to sign the Fair Food Agreement. Let’s use our power as consumers — the people that, frankly, CEOs care most about — and demand that Chipotle sign on to the Fair Food Agreement.

Join the movement for fair food by sending a message to Chipotle’s CEO, urging him to sign the Fair Food Agreement now.


More Information:

What is the Fair Food Agreement?
According to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who are negotiating Fair Food Agreements with various corporations, “the agreements require those companies to demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers (including a zero tolerance policy for slavery), to pay a price premium for more fairly produced tomatoes, and to shift purchases to growers who meet those higher standards. Over 90% of Florida tomato growers have shown their early support for this effort by agreeing to pass along the pay premium to their tomato harvesters, and to abide by a code of conduct under which workers have a voice and slavery is not tolerated.”

Is slavery a reality for some tomato workers?
Farm labor bosses have repeatedly been brought to court for their treatment of workers, including most recently in 2008 for beating their workers who refused to work or tried to leave, holding their workers in debt, and chaining and locking workers inside U-Haul trucks as punishment. The U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the 2008 case called the situation “slavery, plain and simple.” If Chipotle were to sign the Fair Food Agreement, it would be guaranteeing that none of their tomatoes come from growers who treat its workers as modern-day slaves.

Who else signed the Agreement?
Fair Food Agreements have been reached between the CIW and McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Yum! Brands, as well as foodservice providers Compass Group, Aramark, Sodexo, and Bon Appetit Management Company, and grocery store chains Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Why hasn’t Chipotle signed?
Like many corporations before it, Chipotle has offered a number of excuses, many demonstrably false or misleading, and has attempted to circumvent the CIW with its own, half-hearted plan. They have said, essentially, “Trust us, we’re doing it right”. But without signing the agreement, Chipotle has no way of knowing if the growers they’re purchasing from meet CIW’s standards. In fact, a recent audit by the Fair Food Standards Council revealed Chipotle was paying a smaller premium than it should have been.

Why does this matter for Immokalee farm workers?
The Immokalee farm workers, a coalition of people who work on farms in the Immokalee region of Florida (where most of the tomatoes are grown in the US) are organizing because they are some of the lowest paid workers in the country, often making less than $12,000 a year. They work ten-hour days picking tomatoes in order to pick enough (nearly 2.5 tons per day) to make minimum wage. They have no rights to collective bargaining or overtime pay. Each penny a pound increase that they have won brings more people out of poverty, and each buyer requiring workplace protections ensures more people are treated fairly in their jobs and fewer farm workers are subjected to slave-like conditions.


Additional Reading:

The Perennial Plate, The Other Side of the Tomato, 23 March 2012
Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Top Ten Falsehoods, Fibs, and Fabrications in Chipotle’s Answer to a Customer’s Email about the Campaign for Fair Food, 11 April 2012