Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Quiznos, the world is changing!!! When will you?"

During the morning preparations for our action outside Quiznos headquarters last Friday, Gerardo Reyes Chavez (on the left) from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers quickly scrawled a sign reading "Quiznos!!! The World is changing. When will you?" His words cut to the significance of the current moment in the Campaign for Fair Food and the urgency of the need for Quiznos to join the potential tidal shift in farm labor relations in Florida (and beyond) which the moment represents.

Just last week, the CIW and Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the nation's largest tomato growers, announced a milestone agreement embodying the principles of fair wages, human rights and a voice for farmworkers for which the CIW has been fighting for so long. The agreement represents the first direct relationship between a grower and the grassroots, worker-led Coalition. Such a relationship would have been unimaginable just a couple years ago and is a profound break with literally hundreds of years of history during which farm owners have viewed farmworkers as little more than "machines in the fields."

Nonetheless, as Lucas Benitez of the CIW stated at the announcement of the agreement, "As we turn the page on this new chapter in Florida agricultural history, however, I do want to make one thing crystal clear. We are not today claiming that we have achieved the changes sought by the Campaign for Fair Food. Rather, we are announcing that we have forged a plan of action that gives us a realistic chance to bring about those changes."

The vision of a more just and humane agricultural system is teetering on the edge of becoming a reality. As a major buyer of tomatoes, Quzinos' purchasing power can contribute to pushing this reality into being or can serve to hold it back, delaying the hopes of thousands of farmworkers. With Pacific - in addition to the other leading Florida grower East Coast, two of the largest organic tomato producers, all Quiznos' leading fast food competitors, and the food service industry - now solidly behind the CIW's plan of action, there can be no acceptable excuses for Quiznos' failure to join the emerging Fair Food concensus. Justice delayed is justice denied, and unless Quiznos works with the CIW, it is supporting the intolerable status quo which is the human rights crisis in Florida agriculture.

"Quit Stalling, Quiznos!" Photoreport from the Action
With this dramatic background, a rowdy crowd - including not only a broad spectrum from clergy to students of the Denver community, but also our Fair Food companer@s from around Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Illinois and as far away as New York and Florida - convened on Quiznos headquarters. We had a simple message: Quzinos must quit stalling!

Never content with your average protest, the Fair Food activists kicked things off with a song and dance routine to the tune of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" to delivery our message.

"Quiznos, your stalling . . . is killing me (and I), I must confess I still believe (still believe) working conditions must be in line with human riiiiiighhhttts! This agreement you must sign!"
View the music video here, but beware, 'cause it'll get stuck in your head.

After a few inspiring words from Gerardo Reyes, we began a lively picket. Meanwhile, a delegation went upstairs to Quiznos headquarters . . .

. . . to deliver a set of jumper cables to the sandwich franchise. In May, Quiznos promised us that it was pursuing an agreement with the CIW. Quiznos' words have rung hollow as the months have passed and there has been no progress on its part. We brought the cables as a gift to help Quiznos quit stalling and start moving in the right direction again.
To our dissapointment, no one from Quiznos was willing or able to meet us and accept our gift. Eventually, a senior vice president got on the phone and spoke with Rudy Cortinas, national co-coordinator of the Student/Farmworker Alliance. But not only was the VP unwilling to meet with us in person, he refused to so much as listen over the phone to Gerardo Reyes from the CIW. And instead of affirming the importance of a partnership with farmworkers in the protection of human rights in Quiznos supply chain, he regurgitated tired explanations about how the company was taking its own steps to address the issue. The cold shoulder we received at Quiznos headquarters is a big departure from the respect for workers in its supply chain that Quiznos claims to embrace.

Gerardo closed things up by rallying the crowd to continue the struggle and indeed re-double our efforts to bring Quiznos to the table. Everyone present may have been frustrated having been snubbed by Quiznos, but we left more determined than ever to bring about justice for farmworkers in Quiznos' supply chain.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Here's our press release for the action on Friday. If you're from the press, get in touch with us at DenverFairFood@gmail.com. Hope to see everyone there!

Concerned consumers from across the country tell Quiznos to "Quit Stalling!" on Farmworker Rights

DENVER – On Friday, October 15th, community members and consumers from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Illinois, New York, Florida and elsewhere will convene in Downtown Denver at Quiznos national headquarters to urge the restaurant franchise to reach an agreement with Farmworkers which would substantively improve working conditions and wages in Florida’s tomato fields. The festive protest - composed of students, people of faith and community organizations such as Denver Fair Food and Student Farmworker Alliance - will include a musical act and dance number to the tune of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" as well as original Street Theater. The rally 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. Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a farmworker and member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, will address the crowd.

"Our discussions with Quiznos have dragged on. Farmworkers cannot wait for our rights - for fair wages, dignity and freedom from forced labor - and we will continue to make progress toward a more modern and humane agricultural industry. Quiznos should stop holding out and join us on this mission as other companies have," says Reyes Chavez.

In May, representatives from Quiznos made statements publicly and on their website that they were pursuing an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. During a delegation to their headquarters, a Quiznos representative was recorded by local activists saying, "We're looking forward to having an agreement and I'm glad we've already made a significant amount of headway with it." (See video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MZC_gwMN2I.) Today, Quiznos has not moved any closer to signing an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and Farmworkers and their supporters have grown impatient as the months have passed. Already nine other food corporations, including McDonald's, Burger King and Subway, have signed agreements and are collaborating with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Mike Truswell of Denver Fair Food states: "Only by working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers can Quiznos ensure that the human rights of the workers who pick its tomatoes are respected. We will intensify our call for justice until the values which Quiznos says it supports become concrete commitments in the form of a partnership with farmworkers and real changes in the fields."

"Words are not enough. It's time for Quiznos to quit stalling and start acting to end the poverty and sweatshop conditions which farmworkers face," adds Jordan Garcia from the American Friends Service Committee, Colorado office.

Who: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Denver Fair Food, Student Farmworker Alliance, concerned consumers from across the country.
What: Protest and Rally for Farmworker Rights: Dance routine and street theater, colorful signs, picketing, chanting and speech by Farmworker leader.
When: Friday, October 15th, 11:30am-1:00pm
Where: 1001 17th Street, Denver

For more information: DenverFairFood.blogspot.com or http://www.ciw-online.org/


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 successfully prosecuted seven slavery operations - involving over 1,000 workers - in Florida's fields since 1997. Two more prosecutions are currently underway.

In 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers 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 Coalition of Immokalee Workers to address the labor abuses endemic to Florida agriculture. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has reached similar agreements with McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods and the four leading food service corporations.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers' 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 Coalition of Immokalee Workers has received extensive national and international media coverage since 2001.


Monday, October 4, 2010

No Coast Encuentro: Friday and Saturday night entertainment!

The No Coast Encuentro is less than two weeks away! In addition to the powerful action happening Friday, October 15 at 11:30 at Quiznos HQ and the amazing workshops, discussions and strategy sessions happening Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there is great entertainment happening both Friday and Saturday night.

Register online and find all the details at here!

1) The Demarest Factor: US Military Mapping of Indigenous Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico - Film premiere and presentation by Simon Sedillo
Friday, October 15th, 7:00pm
Auraria Campus, North Classroom 1535
(near Speer and Larimer)

2) Dance Party and Celebration!
Saturday, October 16th, 9:00pm
Flobots Community Space
2705 Larimer St.

Join us for all or part of the Encuentro! See the full schedule here!

1) The Demarest Factor: US Military Mapping of Indigenous Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico - Film premiere and presentation by Simon Sedillo

Friday, October 15th, 7:00pm
Auraria Campus, North Classroom 1535 [Map]
(near Speer and Larimer)

This film and workshop presentation discusses a recent investigation into US military mapping of communally owned indigenous land in Oaxaca, Mexico. Kansas University geography professors presented the mapping project to indigenous communities as a participatory research project intended to benefit the communities ability to manage their resources and territory. The involvement of the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) based out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and a US Army School of the America’s graduate, Lt. Col. Geoffrey B. Demarest, raised serious suspicions about the true nature of the mapping project known as “The Bowman Expeditions” or “Mexico Indigena”. This film will discuss parallels between US political and economic interests within the North American Free Trade Agreement, and a US military strategy to secure those very interests.

Simón Sedillo is a community rights defense organizer and film maker. He has spent the last 8 years documenting, producing and teaching community based video documentation in Mexico and the US. Through lectures, workshops, and short films, Sedillo breaks down the effects of neoliberalism, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and militarism on indigenous communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color in the US and Mexico. Through collaborative media projects, Sedillo’s work has contributed to a growing network of communities whose primary objective is to share, teach, and learn from one another, about community based media production and the collective construction of horizontal networks of community rights defense. Sedillo is also an active member of the campaign to close the U.S. Army School of the America’s, at Fort Benning, in Columbus, GA. You can find him at the gates of the U.S. Army base every November along with the folks from The School of the America’s Watch at http://www.soaw.org/.

2) Dance Party and Celebration!

Saturday, October 16th, 9:00pm
Flobots Community Space
2705 Larimer St. [Map]

Music, snacks, beer - there may even be a pinata! This night is going to be fun! Be prepared to dance. FREE of charge, everyone is welcome!

After a long couple days from the Encuentro, this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate our victories and future struggles!