Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Waiting... Chipotle CEO Ells Continues to duck Chipotle Challenge...

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers just sent out this timely reminder of Chipotle's continued misrepresentation of the Campaign for Fair Food while it continues to deny to farmworkers the supply chain accountability they deverse. It's a particularly relevant reminder for those of us in Chipotle's hometown of Denver.

While supermarket industry leaders like Publix, Ahold, and Kroger continue to bear the brunt of public pressure from the growing Campaign for Fair Food, sustainable food darling Chipotle and its celebrity CEO Steve Ells continue to duck the Campaign for Fair Food's challenge to a public debate.

A quick refresh: Way back in December of last year, Food and Society Fellow Sean Sellers issued a direct, public challenge to Ells by means of an article ("Chipotle Challenge: time to back up ‘food with integrity’," 12/11/09) in the sustainable food blog He concluded the article thusly:

"... Which brings us back to Steve Ells' quotation at the top of this story: "But signing an agreement [with the CIW] does not actually change those conditions for farmworkers."

Like most everything else Ells has said about the CIW and the Campaign for Fair Food, this is entirely backwards, and so painfully wrong. But this time, his misinformation will not go unchallenged.

Mr. Ells, consider this my formal challenge to a public debate on the merits of the Campaign for Fair Food. Have the conviction of your beliefs and join me for a debate – you name the time and place, anytime, anywhere. The clock is ticking." read more

So, as the clock has ticked, oh, roughly 11,664,000 times since Mr. Sellers issued his challenge... what has Steve Ells done to back up his contention that somehow he, a Denver restaurateur, knows better how to address decades of documented human rights violations in Florida's fields than the CIW, an internationally recognized leader in the areas of human rights, farm labor slavery, and corporate accountability?

Answer: Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Instead, he has sat back and watched as Publix has taken the heat for buying from the two growers involved in the latest slavery prosecution, the very same growers Chipotle bought from as well, until the CIW informed them that some of their workers were being held against their will by a brutal family of farm bosses -- a fact that somehow missed the keen gaze of Mr. Ells and his crew there in Denver.

And so, the clock continues to tick, and Mr. Ells and his company continue to claim that they don't need a "third-party" to tell them how to do social responsibility right (the question of how the workers who actually make it possible for Chipotle's tomatoes to make it out of the fields to Chipotle's restaurants became a "third party" may be a topic for a later debate...).

You'd think that such a smart company wouldn't have a problem defending its position in public. At this point, however, one has to conclude that Mr. Ells simply isn't willling to expose his arguments on the Campaign for Fair Food to the crucible of public debate. It's a shame, it would be a riveting, and valuable, debate for Fair Food activists, and for the sustainable food movement as a whole.

Go to the CIW website, for more on this story and for all the latest news from the Campaign for Fair Food. Thanks - Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Monday, April 26, 2010

Photos from the Farmworker Freedom March

Incredibly it's already been a week since the end of the Farmworker Freedom March. The dozen of us from Denver who participated in the march have recuperated from our sore feet but are still soaring with a renewed sense of determination to continue the struggle. So much for our high hopes of making posts while in Florida - the action proved to busy for that.

Without further delay here are a few photos of us from march:

Please also check out the photo updates from the CIW website:
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

And check out this incredible photo montage from the march:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Florida or bust!

In just hours, the first wave of Denver Fair Foodistas will be hitting the road for a long drive to Tampa, Florida. There we'll be joined by not only another half dozen of our Mile High sisters and brothers who are flying but also by hundreds if not thousands of our companeros from around the country who likewise have been inspired by the amazing grassroots workers struggle led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

The Farmworker Freedom March is going to be powerful experience for us no doubt. I'm hoping that between the driving and marching and networking and picketing and chanting and singing and celebrating and building the more just world that lives in our dreams, that between all that, my friends and I will have some opportunities to update those of you who couldn't make it while we're in Florida. In any case expect a thorough report and reflections upon our return and pay attention to the CIW website for all the latest.

Next up: The Denver Ground Forces (as I'll be calling our caravan) are combining forces with the awesome folks from Lawrence Fair Food in Lawrence, Kansas before continuing on our quest. Stayed tuned...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

E-Action Alert! Let Publix know "Not in our house" isn't an answer when it comes to farm labor justice!

Tell Publix what you think about their "Not in our house" approach to social responsibility...

Send Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw an email now! demanding justice for farmworkers!

Next week nearly a dozen activists from Denver Fair Food along with hundreds of allies from around country will join scores of farmworkers from Immokalee in the Farmworker Freedom March -- a 3-day march on the headquarters of Florida-based supermarket giant Publix. But you need not go to Florida to take action: you can send a email to Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw! It only takes a minute but will powerfully amplify the message of those of us marching!

"We don’t like anybody coming into our house telling us how to do business."

That was Publix Communication Director Maria Brous's response to a reporter who asked whether Publix gets involved in the Fair Trade market. And while the answer was in response to a question about Fair Trade coffee and bananas, it sure sounded like it was aimed squarely at the Campaign for Fair Food.

Well, now you can march straight into Publix's house and tell them exactly how you want them to do business!

Click here to send Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw an email to express your "support for the Farmworker Freedom March and to urge Publix to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an internationally recognized farmworker organization, to address the sub-poverty wages and abuses faced by the farmworkers who pick Publix’s tomatoes."

For everyone who can't join us for next week's march, this is a great way to be counted and make your voice heard in the growing chorus demanding Fair Food. Send your email to Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw today!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Another Victory! as students turn their attention to Sodexo...

What is Sodexo waiting for? The question just became ever more pertinent as Sodexo is now the sole holdout, among the "big 3" campus food service providers, still resisting coming to the table to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to address the human rights crisis in its tomato supply chain. No doubt the students at the major campuses in Denver with which Sodexo contracts - Auraria, University of Denver and Regis University - will be asking that question with increasing scrunity. We hope Sodexo also recognizes that the longer the company waits, the more organized - and impatient - students will become and their questions will quickly morph into demands for a new food service provider who does respect the principles of Fair Food. If THAT is what Sodexo is waiting for, so be it.

Click here for a copy of a new letter which you can send to Sodexo headquarters or deliver to the Sodexo manager on your campus.

Meanwhile, go to the Student/Farmworker Alliance website for all the news on the announcement of the latest victory with Aramark and check out the SFA announcement as they turn their attention to Sodexo:

Responding to an escalating campaign waged by students on campuses across the country, Aramark has agreed to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to directly improve farmworker wages and working conditions in the tomato fields of Florida. The agreement comes a year into the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA)'s “Dine with Dignity” campaign, which calls on major food service providers to take responsibility for the human rights crisis and grinding poverty faced by workers in their tomato supply chains. SFA's Dine with Dignity campaign has also helped to usher in groundbreaking agreements between the CIW and Bon Appetit Management Company and Compass Group. With the ascension of Aramark, Sodexo now stands isolated as the only major food service provider to not yet join this rising tide of social responsibility.

“This victory is a testament to the power we have as students and young people standing together with farmworkers. The agreement comes in the wake of several successful campus campaigns resulting in Student Senate resolutions calling on Aramark to work with the CIW, including at UF. Thanks to this movement, Aramark has come to understand that the voice and participation of farmworkers themselves are necessary and central components of any real change in the agricultural industry. Sodexo should take note, as all eyes are on them now,” said Richard Blake, Student/Farmworker Alliance member at the University of Florida.

“Victory by victory, we're carving out a new world of fair wages, human rights, and dignity from the shameful history of exploitation in Florida's fields. Now that Aramark has come around, Sodexo doesn't have a leg to stand on. If corporations like Sodexo and Publix are to truly embrace social responsibility and guarantee to consumers that the food on our tables is not the product of human rights abuse, they must step up and follow Aramark and several other industry leaders in agreeing to work with the CIW,” said Meghan Cohorst, Student/Farmworker Alliance.

“As the daughter of a migrant farmworker and student at an Aramark-contracted campus literally down the road from Immokalee, I had no choice but to be a leader in this fight. Even on a seemingly apathetic and conservative campus, we made a difference and garnered significant support amongst the student body for this campaign. SFA has once again played a crucial role in walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the CIW to another victory. Now, Florida's self-described community grocer, Publix, must come to the table and understand that farmworkers are also part of our communities and deserve to be treated with respect,” said Angela Cisneros, Student/Farmworker Alliance member at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Farmworkers picking tomatoes for the corporate food industry toil from dawn to dusk for sub-poverty wages at a piece rate (40-50 cents for each 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes) that has not changed significantly in over 30 years. They perform this grueling, dangerous work with no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick leave, no pension, and without the legal rights to form unions or to demand collective bargaining with their employers, stemming from New Deal-era exclusions of farm- and domestic workers from many of these basic labor and human rights. The CIW-led Campaign for Fair Food, in which SFA is a key catalyst, seeks to transform this reality by enlisting the resources of retail food giants to improve farmworker wages and harnessing their demand to reward growers who respect their workers' rights.