Since then -- though Ells has yet to answer the call -- the Chipotle Challenge has certainly caught the attention of national food writers who have seized upon the jarring contradiction at the heart of Chipotle's billion-dollar brand.
In an excellent feature-length article ("One Company Thinks They've Created Fast Food with a Conscience -- Are They Right?," 2/9/10), Tara Lohan of AlterNet writes:
"'Chipotle had no idea it was buying from one of the growers tainted by the most recent slavery prosecution until the CIW told them about it,' said Sellers. 'They would have known much earlier if they had a real working relationship with the CIW.'And a month earlier, the food blog Simple, Good and Tasty posed a series of hard-hitting questions for Ells ("Chipotle Doesn't Support Florida Tomato Pickers? Say it ain't so, Steve," 1/14/10):
... Whether Chipotle will be willing to team up with CIW in an effort to improve labor conditions is yet to be seen. Sellers has invited Ells to a public debate about the issue, but Ells has yet to take him up on the offer. Still, it's not too late for Ells to be consistent about changing the fast-food paradigm."
"So, my first question to Steve Ells would simply be, why?Will Ells accept the Chipotle Challenge? The clock is still ticking.
Question #2 would be this: Are you willing to tarnish the reputation of your company over this seemingly no-brainer issue? How could you possibly object to doing everything you can to improve the plight of poor and powerless farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields? (That would be question #3.)
And, finally, do you know how much you are hurting the people who care about you, who have held you in such high esteem, who depend on you to provide inexpensive, convenient, delicious, nutritious and sustainably sourced food that appeals to practically everyone?
Admit you have a problem, Steve. That’s the first step. Now solve it. Pledge your full and unconditional support to CIW and Florida’s tomato pickers. Do it for them. Do it for your customers. Do it for your investors. Do it for your friends and family. Do it, because, as you say on your website, you can always "do better." Prove it. Thank you."