Monday, August 31, 2009

On Our Own Terms: Become a Sustaining Member of SFA Today!

Sign up today! -

"Becoming a sustainer is one of the easiest and most direct ways to enable this important work to continue on its own terms." -Sean, former SFA staff member

How much do you spend every week on coffee or beer? Every month?

How much do you spend when you go to the movies?

What if, for a fraction of what you might spend on those items, you could make a monthly contribution to help the Student/Farmworker Alliance — one of today's most dynamic youth and student movements fighting for economic justice — achieve new victories and climb new heights as we work to transform our food system (and build a base of stable, independent, no-strings-attached, grassroots funding in the process)?

Today you can. Click here <> for more information on this exciting new campaign and to become a Student/Farmworker Alliance Sustaining Member!

As a SFA Sustaining Member, a small monthly contribution of your choice ($5, $10...) will automatically and securely be deducted from your bank or credit account to help our movement grow.

We've set a very lofty goal that we'll only reach with all of your support: To sign up enough Sustaining Members so that SFA earns at least $1,000/month, nearly covering an entire SFA staff member's salary and allowing us to divert that money to our exciting organizing work!

And, as if helping to build a national student/youth movement and securing human rights and dignified wages for farmworkers wasn't enough, we have some exciting incentives and goodies in store for Sustainers: check out the details at <>, where you could also find talking points and info to help you recruit other Sustainers.

On the eve of our 5th-annual Encuentro and a season of intense organizing and action around the Dine with Dignity campaign, our movement is stronger than ever. It also needs your support more than ever. We all know that money is tight in these tough economic times, but with just a small contribution, you (& your friends, family members, and co-workers) can strengthen our movement as we continue to fight for fair food, dignity, and respect!

In Solidarity,
The Immokalee crew & 2009 SFA Steering Committee

“I see something special when I see SFA in action. It gives me hope that this world will be a better place, and I see us transforming it little by little, one corporate giant after another." - Juan, SFA member

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Monday, August 24, 2009

When will we be satisfied? Delivering the open letter to chipotle and reflecting on the negotiable and non-negotiable in human rights

When we presented Chipotle with the names 16,000 people, including key leaders from the food justice and sustainable food movements – not to mention the makers of the very film that Chipotle CEO Steve Ells thinks everyone should go see – who signed an open letter to the company stating that “we view the CIW’s struggle for dignity as a non-negotiable part of the struggle for a sustainable food system,” the company did not embrace the call of thousands of concerned consumers that it “work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as true partners in the protection of farmworker rights.” Instead the company told us, in more words or less, that the human rights of farmworkers are negotiable and can be negated for their business preferences.

To give a little background, in July Chipotle announced that it was sponsoring 32 free screenings around the country of the hard-hitting new documentary Food, Inc. As part of its long-running efforts to align itself with the growing movement for sustainable food, Chipotle explained that “the issues raised by the film Food, Inc. are important and complex, and everything we do at Chipotle strives to address them.”

But the many allies of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers were not about to let Chipotle off the hook so easily. For far too long, Chipotle has left out a vital perspective from its vision of sustainable food – that is the view from farmworkers, the women and men who perform the difficult and dangerous work of harvesting the food we eat. Just a few weeks before Chipotle announced it’s Food, Inc. promotional deal, more than two-dozen prominent activists from the sustainable food and food justice worlds issued the above-mentioned open letter to Chipotle. Among the letter’s signers are none other than the director of Food, Inc. Robert Kenner and co-producer Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation).

Outside the Chipotle-sponsored Food, Inc. screenings, Fair Food activists circulated the open letter among moviegoers and collected more signatures of support. American Rights at Work, a Washington, D.C.-based labor rights organization, also circulated the letter nationwide and encouraged concerned consumers to call and Tweet Chipotle. In the resulting public relations blow back, food, social justice, environmental blogs and even an investor blog scrutinized the contradiction between Chipotle’s stated committed to “food with integrity” and its failure to adequately address the human rights crisis faced by the farmworkers. Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser also reiterated their support for the CIW and their disagreement with Chipotle regarding the company’s response to the Coalition.

All told, activists spoiled Chipotle’s public relations party in over a dozen cities, generated hundreds of tweets (becoming a top Twitter petition) and made over 600 phone calls to Chipotle headquarters. More than 16,000 people emailed Chipotle and added their names to the open letter.

Knowing that emails and phone calls can be ignored all too easily, last Wednesday members of Denver Fair Food along with compaƱeros from Denver’s labor, student and community organizations delivered in person to Chipotle headquarters the open letter with all its signers.

The two Chipotle public relations spin doctors – Chris Arnold and Joe Stupp – who eventually met with us seemed untouched by many signers to the letter insisting to us that, while Chipotle isn’t willing to join in formal agreement, they are “working with the CIW” to find a grower who will pass along the penny-per-pound wage increase to the workers.

But Chipotle is unwilling to guarantee that it will not back out of its penny-per-pound payments, unwilling to share information about its supply chain or verify that it is doing what it claims, unwilling to include the CIW in the development and enforcement of a worker rights code of conduct for its tomato suppliers, and unwilling to maintain an open line of dialog with the CIW about these issues – hardly what could be described as an “working relationship.” It’s Chipotle's equivolent to confusing flirtation over a phone dating service with the bonds of holy matrimony.

Eventually the Chipotle representatives conceded that “we are working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers . . . okay maybe not to their satisfaction but we are working with them.” In one of his most famous speeches, MLK stated: “There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’” To which he reponded: “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors . . . as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity . . . No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”

Likewise, today the CIW cannot be satisfied with the actions Chipotle has taken in response to the dire crisis faced by farmworkers. Farmworkers deserve a fair wage, and none of us can be satisfied as long as Chipotle refuses to guarantee that it will not back out of its commitment to contributing to one. Farmworkers have a fundamental right to have a voice in the industry of which they are a part, and we will never be satisfied as long as Chipotle denies them the ability to participate in the decisions which impact their lives. Proctecting the rights of farmworkers is not possible without transparency about purchasers’ business practices, and we cannot be satisfied while Chipotle continues to meet us with only secrecy and closed doors. We cannot be satisfied with Chipotle’s response any more than we can ever tolerate the existence of poverty, exploitation and slavery.

When we repeated our position – and the position of thousands of others – that “we view the CIW’s struggle for dignity as a non-negotiable part of the struggle for a sustainable food system,” the chipotle representatives told us that we should “recognize that things are negotiable and that there are no non-negotiables . . . recognizing that there is more than one way to solve a problem, instead of saying: here is the one solution – take it.”

There are certainly multiple solutions to any problem. But is that the same as saying there are no non-negotiables, nothing so fundamental, so valuable that it cannot be sacrificed? Human rights are non-negotiable; human dignity cannot be taken away when it becomes inconvenient. And therefore, the solutions to human rights problems must be embraced fully regardless of the burden. There are not steps which can be left out because they do not mesh with your preferences – not without compromising the solution for which you are working.

The fact is that Chipotle’s “solution” to the human rights crisis in Florida’s fields is not a solution at all. While no one from Chipotle would out right say that farmworker poverty is an acceptable price to pay so that Chipotle can avoid a binding commitment or that a little bit of slavery in its supply chain is preferable to joining in a formal agreement with the CIW, Chipotle’s actions speak loudly that continuing its preferred manner of doing business is more important to it than doing everything possible to ensure that farmworkers’ human rights are respected. Without accountability, transparency or the participation of farmworkers, there is no vehicle through which to make human rights in the fields a reality and all Chipotle’s promises amount to little more than words on paper – pretty maybe, but meaningless.

These are principles far too important to be negotiable – to be sacrificed for the sake of other interests – because they form the very basis upon which farmworkers can actualize their human rights and dignity. If Chipotle proposes an innovative new way for implementing these principles or thinks a particular idea is best suited to its supply chain, then I’m sure the CIW will listen with open ears. There is more than one way to solve a problem. But until then we will never be satisfied.

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”

View the unedited video from our debate with Chipotle’s PR reps:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tweet Chipotle - Give Chipotle your 2 cents (it's more than they're giving farmworkers!)

Another message from American Rights @ Work: now there are even more ways to keep the pressure on Chipotle!

We're getting their attention, but we need to keep the pressure on if we want Chipotle to live up to its "food with integrity" promise.

It's official. You've got Chipotle feeling the heat.

When we told you that Chipotle was standing by while the farmworkers who pick their tomatoes faced abuse and exploitation in the fields, you and over 16,000 others wrote Chipotle CEO Steve Ells, demanding that Chipotle live up to its "food with integrity" promise.

As a major buyer, Chipotle knows they have the power to intervene for the farmworkers.

We need your help to keep the pressure on and let Chipotle know that integrity can't be bought with half-efforts and excuses.

You've already signed our petition but there are a few simple ways you can help us keep the pressure on Chipotle:

*Spread the word, and ask your friends to join you by signing the petition to Chipotle.

*Help flood Chipotle's offices with calls in support of the farmworkers. Just dial 888-899-0017 and follow the easy instructions.

*Share this effort on Facebook and make sure your friends know you're taking a stand for farmworkers.

*Sign our Twitter petition to Chris Arnold, Chipotle's PR rep, urging Chipotle to partner with Florida farmworkers and end the exploitation.

To sign, just click here, and then click the "Sign and Tweet" button. If you've never used Twitter, you can set up a new account and sign the petition at the same time! NOTE: You may have to try a few times to get through if Twitter's web servers are busy.

Your actions now will help Florida farmworkers fight unimaginable abuse and exploitation. The average farmworker puts in a 10 hour day in the scorching Florida sun and must pick two and a half TONS of produce a day to earn $50 - that's only $10,000 per year. Powerful companies like Chipotle need to know they have a responsibility to exert their influence and give a fair deal to the workers who help boost their bottom lines.

That's why we're going to keep turning up the heat until Chipotle does the right thing and lives by their own "food with integrity" pledge. With your help, we can do just that.

We'll keep you posted, and thanks for all that you do.

-Liz, Manny, Elizabeth B., and the American Rights at Work team

P.S. If you've never signed a Twitter petition before, just click here and click the "Sign and Tweet" button. Signing our Twitter petition will make a huge impact because the signatures are public. If enough of us sign, Chipotle will be forced to respond! (NOTE: You may have to try a few times to get through if Twitter's web servers are busy.)

P.P.S. If you're already on Twitter, once you've signed the petition you can also help us spread the word about Chipotle by tweeting about the farmworkers. Make sure to use the hashtag: #Chipotle

Monday, August 3, 2009

Call Chipotle HQ! One burrito, no justice

From our friends at American Rights At Work - a new action against Chipotle:

Chipotle's PR efforts are backfiring...
Call 1-888-899-0017 and add your voice!
Since we asked you a few weeks ago, more than 10,000 activists, signed the open letter to Chipotle, urging the company to stand up for exploited Florida farmworkers. (Sign the open letter here!)

Momentum is building. People around the country have been calling on Denver-based 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 the efforts of these demonstrators by making a quick toll-free call to Chipotle's corporate headquarters?

Calling is easy to do: just follow these three easy steps:

1: Call Chipotle toll-free at:
2: Tell the person who picks up the phone - or leave a message - saying that you want Chipotle to live up to its "food with integrity" promise by standing up for Florida farmworkers.
You can also add:
- The Florida workers who pick Chipotle's tomatoes have one of the worst jobs in America, with sub-poverty wages, back-breaking labor, and unimaginable exploitation.

- It's time for Chipotle to join in a formal agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - a widely respected farmworker organization and a leader in the field of human rights.

- Partnering with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will ensure the workers who pick Chipotle's tomatoesare treated fairly and paid a living wage.

3: IMPORTANT: If you get to talk to anyone at Chipotle, tell us how it went - email

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'smessage - they've refused to join in a formal agreement to build better working conditions for the Florida workers who pick their produce and face exploitation and poverty wages - even after the film's director and the film's co-producer demanded Chipotle to do this.

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

Chipotle can't have it both ways. They can't claim to stand for "food with integrity" while ignoring worker exploitation in their supply chain. We're going to keep turning up the heat until Chipotle does the right thing and lives by their own "food with integrity" pledge.

And to do that, we need YOUR help! Please, call 1-888-899-0017 right now!

Thanks you for all that you do.
-The American Rights At Work Team