Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"The great mountain...created together with each of our individual grains of sands": bikes, kites, picket lines, progress and more

On Tuesday, May 25th, Denver Fair Food in conjunction with other groups including the Student/Farmworker Alliance, Fight With Tools, Let Us Rise, and Colorado Jobs with Justice held a powerful action in order to send a strong message to the Denver-based subsandwich franchise Quiznos that we demand they work in partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to ensure fair wages and uphold the human rights of farmworkers who pick tomatoes used by the company.

Please see our account of the exciting, fun-filled and moving event:
Part 1: Bike Parade!
Part 2: Sending our message to Quiznos Stores . . .
Part 3: Rally at Quiznos Corporate Offices
Part 4: Flying Kites for Human Rights!

We know that our actions are having a deep impact on Quiznos. Leading up to the protests, Quiznos began positive discussions with the CIW and publicly Quiznos is expressing a desire to join in a Fair Food agreement with the CIW similar to those that the CIW has already has with eight other corporations.

Check out these articles to hear Quiznos explain its desire to cooperate with the CIW:
"Quiznos seeks fair wage for tomato pickers amid protest"
"Protesters gather at Quiznos Denver Headquarters in support of farmworkers"

We are truly encouraged by Quiznos' promising words. However, we must make clear that until words become actions and expressed desires become concrete commitments, we will not rest. Indeed, our strength and our numbers will only grow. We will be closely following the progress of talks between the CIW and Quiznos and are determined to see the process through to a sucessful agreement that improves the wages and working conditions of farmworkers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers sent us a statement to be shared with all those gathered outside Quiznos' headquarters Tuesday. We'll end by sharing it here as well:

Dear Friends,

Please receive greetings from the members of the CIW. You all in Denver encourage us and fill us with hope and the spirit of struggle knowing that this movement is made up of deeply committed people and allies like you.

Without a doubt the executives at Quiznos are beginning to understand that. Thank you for all of the actions you have taken and will continue to take to bring these two corporations [Denver-based Quiznos and Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill] to the table to sign agreements like those we already have with eight other corporations. We are certain that one day soon they'll be working with us.

As you know, Quiznos is closer than ever to adopting the principles of Fair Food. That's why today's action is so important and why it's more important now than ever to keep up the pressure so that for once and for all they understand that the situation faced by workers is urgent and that we won't abide the violations of farmworkers' human rights any longer.

Today you are making history, history that will be recorded by future generations and that will inspire young people by showing them that by working together, fighting together, and marching together we can forge a more just, more humane food industry.

The future is ours. It's up to us to make it a future full of hope in which one day not so far away thousands of families will enjoy the fruits of this movement for fair food. When the day comes that the twisted roads are straightened and justice reaches every worker at his job, that day we'll see that farmworkers have arrived at the top of the great mountain that we created together with each of our individual grains of sand. When that happens we will all be full of joy and we'll let the world know that together another world is truly possible.

Thank you
-- the Coalition of Immokalee Worker

Part 4: Flying Kites for Human Rights!

After the rally, there were still two final expressions of our solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Everyone first signed a giant postcard addressed to Quiznos CEO Rick Schaden calling on the company to work with the CIW in the improvement of wages and working conditions for farmworkers. A delegation of allies then hand devliered the postcard to Quiznos Corporate Offices. A friendly woman from Quiznos' PR department accepted the postcard and told us that Quiznos has already made a great deal of headway toward reaching an agreement with the CIW and they were hopeful one would be reached very soon. We told her that we are very encouraged these positive developments and we would be watching very closely to make sure the discussions become a working partnership with the CIW . . . And should that fail to happen, well, then our campaign would not only continue but grow.

Meanwhile, those of us outside were flying kites hoping to send a visual symbol to the windows of Quiznos' second story suite of our support for the delegation inside. We have to admit that we felt a little like David vs. Goliath with our puny kites in front of Quiznos massive building . . .
. . . But we all know who won that battle.

Go to Wrap Up

Go to Part 3

Part 3: Rally at Quiznos Corporate Offices

At Quiznos corporate offices, we were joined by many others from the Denver community and our numbers quickly swelled to nearly 100 people. The group, eager for action, jumped into a picket in front of Quiznos' flagship restaurant which sits just 100 feet or so from the entrance to the headquarters.
Of course, Denver wasn't the only city represented that day. There were folks from all over the country such as this young woman with the "Detroit loves the CIW" sign who is active in her town's own inspiring Food Justice movement - turning the abondoned lots of America's first post-industrial city into a burgeoning osasis of community-run urban agriculture. No doubt the activists hailing from Albuquerque to Atlanta, Portand to Philidelphia (many of whom were attending the White Flag Warriors Institute) will be taking with them back to their home communities a desire to continue fighting for fair food.

The picket was an engergizing testament to people's collective power and filled us with the knowledge that, working together, we can change a system even as mighty as the fast food industry.

Things wound up with a short rally outside the restaurant at which the amazing Ashara Ekundayo (lower right-hand corner) spoke. For those who don't know Ashara, her many hats (which are almost too numerous to count) include poet, ARTivist, co-founder of Cafe Nuba and the Pan African Arts Society, mother, Food Justice organizer, Sustainability Director at the GrowHaus, and social entrapenuer with the startup company Blue and Yellow Logic "cause it takes more than one color to make green."

Ashara was followed by Robert McGoey from Denver Fair Food who read a statement from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The statement (which can be found in it's entirety here) read in part: "You all in Denver encourage us and fill us with hope and the spirit of struggle knowing that this movement is made up of deeply committed allies like you. . . Quiznos is closer than ever to adopting the principles of Fair Food. That's why today's action is so important and why it is more important than ever to keep up the pressure . . ."

Finally, the rally concluded with an old friend who's joined us at other actions: the Penny who wanted to share a song about one of the central demands of the campaign which he knows a little something about . . .
We'll finish Part 3 with his words:
Did someone say a Penny?
Just one tiny little cent!
How could a copper penny
Most righteously be spent?

Invest me wisely, I would say
No Quiznos for me, no way
Not till they sign AND agree to pay…

Just one penny more a pound, that’s all!
Just one itsy bitsy cent
For these workers to stand TALL
I say that’s a cent well spent!

Quiznos! Buy tomatoes with integrity
Just one penny more a pound
Let’s make slavery past history
One penny, how’s that sound?

Quiznos! one more time?
Let’s make slavery past history
AND ….. Join the picket line!
Go to Part 4
Go to Part 2

Part 2: Sending our message to Quiznos stores...

The Bike Parade split into three different groups in order to deliver our message to as many Quiznos locations as possible in a short amount of time. Each group went to a different Quiznos restaurant. Two groups went to stores on the 16th Street Mall (a place which has seen it's share of historic fair food actions). The third group went somewhere of historic significance for Quiznos - its very first restaurant, seen below. With any luck (and a growing national campaign) all the Quiznos stores we visited will become part of a new history, another chapter in the Campaign for Fair Food which will end with Quiznos joining in partnership with the CIW to uphold the human rights of farmworkers.
At the stores each group delivered manager letters (which you can do as well!) . . .

. . . and had impromptu pickets outside, like this one whose signs straight forwardly explain to Quiznos why it should get onboard with the principles of Fair Food while riffing off of Quiznos' brand image. They read: "Join the winning Team!! (CIW, SFA, IA, Yum!, McDonald's, Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway, Compass, Bon Apetit, Aramark)," "Quiznos: Buy Fair Tomatoes," "Toasted Sub=Good, Exploited Farmworkers=Bad," and "MMMM...Fair Food."
Finally, everyone departed to convene together at Quiznos Coporate Headquarters and flagship store.
Go to Part 3
Go to Part 1

Part 1: Bike Parade!

Yesterday, things got off to a great start as we warmed up our vocal chords and got the animo moving by practicing some chants.
Then we hit the road for a spirited Bike Parade of several dozen people - flags flyings, tunes blaring from the boom boxes strapped to the back of bikes, gritos louding sending a simple but compelling message through downtown Denver: "J-U-S! J-U-S-T-I-C-E! What we want is Justice in Immokalee!"

Go to Part 2

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Our press release for the upcoming action... Hope to see you all there...

Community members from across the country demand justice for Farmworkers

DENVER – On Tuesday, May 25th, community members and consumers from across the country will convene in Downtown Denver at Quiznos national headquarters to urge the restaurant franchise to reach an agreement with Farmworkers that would substantively improve working conditions and wages in Florida’s tomato fields. Participants will join in a Bike Parade to Quiznos restaurants across the city and will then convene in Downtown Denver at Quiznos headquarters to fly kites in the spirit of Farmworker justice. The action is part of the ongoing national Campaign for Fair Food led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Farmworker led organization from Immokalee, Florida. Local supporters of the action include Denver Fair Food, Student Farmworker Alliance, and Let Us Rise.

"We are closely following the dialogue between Quiznos and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and are determined to see the process through to a successful agreement that improves both working conditions and wages for the Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for Quiznos," said Seth Donovan organizer with

Local supporters of the Farmworkers are encouraged by positive conversations that Quiznos has had with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. However, they say that their campaign will continue until the Farmworker requests for a partnership are reached.

Robert McGoey from Denver Fair Food states, "It’s time Quiznos takes responsibility for remedying the abysmal conditions in its tomato suppliers operations. Only by working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers can Quiznos accomplish this." Ashara Ekundayo, Sustainability Director at The GrowHaus further states, "As a movement, we take direction from Farmworkers because we believe they have the best wisdom to create better lives for themselves. Today, we ask Quiznos to join us!"

These actions will take place in concert with the White Flag Warriors Institute, a weeklong series of trainings, workshops and events sponsored by The institute is designed to provide tools, skills and analysis for community members across the country looking to engage in actions for positive social change.

Who: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Denver Fair Food, Student Farmworker Alliance,, Let Us Rise, and Consumers locally and from across the country.
What: Bike Parade & Kite Flying Rally for Food Justice
When: Tuesday, May 25th, Noon-2pm
Bike Parade starts at Noon, Kite Flying Rally begins at 1pm
Where: Bike Rally starts at Community Space at 2705 Larimer St, Denver at Noon Rally is at Quiznos Headquarters at 1001 17th Street, Denver starting at 1pm
For more information: or


Florida’s Farmworkers - who work for suppliers of the fast-food industry - face sweatshop conditions every day in the fields, including:
• Sub-poverty wages (tomato pickers earn roughly $10,000/year, according to the USDOL)
• No raise in nearly 30 years (pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate today as in 1980 - at the going rate of 40 to 50 cents per 32-lb bucket, workers must pick more than TWO TONS of tomatoes just to earn about $50 in a day)
• The denial of fundamental labor rights (no right to overtime pay nor right to organize)

In the most extreme cases, workers face actual conditions of modern-day slavery. Federal civil rights officials have prosecuted seven slavery operations - involving over 1,000 workers - in Florida's fields since 1997.

In 2005, the CIW resolved a four-year, nationwide boycott against Taco Bell when the fast-food leader and its parent company, Yum Brands, agreed to pay a premium for its tomatoes to directly improve workers’ sub-poverty wages and to work with the CIW to address the labor abuses endemic to Florida agriculture. The CIW has reached similar agreements with McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and other leading food service corporations.

The CIW's groundbreaking work has been recognized by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Center, Anti-Slavery International, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Business Ethics Network, among others. The CIW has received extensive national and international media coverage since 2001.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Action Alert! Drop off a letter at your local Quiznos

Take action for farmworker justice!
Deliver a letter to the manager of your local Quiznos demanding that the company work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve wages and working conditions for the farmworkers who pick tomatoes used by Quiznos.

Download the Quiznos Manager Letter here!

In the days and weeks leading up to the exciting Tuesday, May 25th BIKE PARADE & RALLY outside the Coporate Headquarters of Denver-based Quiznos, we're asking you to deliver a letter to manager of your local Quiznos showing your support for the CIW and their Campaign for Fair Food.

NO NEED TO WAIT DO IT TODAY! It's simple: print off the letter, bring it to the Quiznos restaurants nearest you, ask to speak to the manager, and share with her/him your desire to see Quiznos take a leadership role in ending the human rights crisis faced by farmworkers in the company's supply chain.

Download the letter here!

Go here to locate the Quiznos nearest you, see their Store Locator.

As always check out the CIW website for more info

And be sure to join us, by bike or on foot, for the Tuesday, May 25th Bike Parade & Rally. See here for details.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Save the Date! Quiznos Bike Parade & Rally!

Tuesday, May 25th

Tell QUIZNOS: "Fair Food now!"
demanding fair wages and human rights for farmworkers!

12:00noon Bike Parade departs from:
the Flobots Community Space - 2705 Larimer St
27th & Larimer, downtown Denver

1:00pm Rally at:
Quiznos Corporate Headquarters - 1001 17th St.
17th & Curtis, downtown Denver

More details TO BE ANNOUNCED

Denver Fair Food and Fight With Tools are teaming up to demand that Denver-based fast food giant Quiznos work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to ensure fair wages and human rights for farmworkers. Join us for an exciting action involving a spirited bike parade followed by a rally outside Quiznos Corporate Offices.

There are opportunities to participate whether or not you have a bike!

The CIW - a grassroots organization of Latino, Haitian and Mayan immigrant farmworkers in Florida - has called on Quiznos to take steps to address the human rights crisis faced by workers who harvest tomatoes in the company's supply chain. Quiznos is a major purchaser of Florida tomatoes whose high volume/low cost purchasing practices place a downward pressure on prices which in turn place a downward pressure on the wages and working conditions of farmworkers.

Farmworkers in Florida who pick tomatoes face sweatshop conditions every day. Workers earn just 40 to 50 cents for each 32lb bucket of tomatoes they pick - the same per bucket piece rate as they received in 1978. At that rate a worker must pick 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10hr workday. Farmworkers make, on average, just $10,000 a year. They are denied the right to overtime pay and the right to organize. In the most extreme situations, farmworkers are held against their will and forced to work in modern-day slavery rings. There have been seven successfully prosecuted slavery rings in Florida, involving more than 1,000 farmworkers, since 1997.

Through hard-fought campaigns, the CIW has reached agreements with 8 leading food corporations including McDonald's, Taco Bell, Subway and Burger King. These "Fair Food" agreements have established for the first time direct increases in wages, enforceable standards for the protection of worker rights and a voice for farmworkers in the decisions which impact their lives.

Now it's time for Quiznos to join the growing wave of Fair Food and help put an end to Florida's harvest of shame once and for all. Join us at this important action to send a clear message to Quiznos that we want "Fair Food Now!"

For more information contact: