Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are Chipotle And Trader Joe's Really Selling Food With "Integrity?"

It's been more than a little while since we updated the Denver Fair Food blog. A lot has been happening in the Campaign for Fair Food no doubt. DFF organized one of the powerful ongoing vigils outside the for-profit immigrant detention center in Aurora. We attended the Fair Food Summit in Immokalee, Florida. And nationally, the CIW and their allies have ramped up their pressure on the "cheap-chic" organic grocer Trader Joe's. Similar to Denver's own Chipotle Mexican Grill, Trader Joe has a reputation as a extremely ethical company and yet, again like Chipotle, refuses to participate in the only effort to date to systematically improve the wages and working conditions of Florida's tomato pickers - the CIW's Fair Food Program.

Below is a commentary by one filmmaker who discovered, after traveling to Immokalee, what we in Denver have known for a long time - that Chipotle (and Trader Joe's) are not serving anything resembling "integrity."

Are Chipotle And Trader Joe's Really Selling Food With "Integrity?"
by Mirra Fine

Yesterday, on our way towards Immokalee, Florida to visit with Immigrant Farm laborers, we decided to stop into a Chipotle. We pride ourselves on not eating fast food, and have only stopped at 1-2 along the way (always either Subway or Chipotle, and always vegetarian). But there is something about Chipotle that makes me feel like I'm not eating at a fast food joint. Their decorum of metallic, aztec-ish mosaics on the walls; smell of cilantro rice; and clean metal tables is familiar and comforting so far from home. Their motto is "Food with Integrity" (it's right there when you pull up the website), and they pride themselves on working with small farmers (when they can) and providing good, local, farm-supporting food. And it tastes good. So, we pulled off of interstate 41 without any guilt and stopped in for a quick bite.

I got what I usually get: veggie bowl with lots of rice, topped with a little bit of black beans, cheese, lettuce and their mild salsa chocked full of red tomatoes, onions and herbs. And I usually swing for some guac on the side. Maybe it was the oppressive heat outside that made my shirt stick to my back, or my premonition of a long day of filming ahead, or it could have been because deep down, somehow I knew that this would be my last veggie bowl at Chipotle for a long time...but I cleaned my plate.

And then we drove to Immokalee, Florida -- the state's largest farm worker community. In Immokalee the per capita income is only $9,700/year, half the people in town live below the federal poverty line, and the area has seen many cases of "modern day slavery" (meaning farmers holding people against their will, forcing them to work, beating or killing them if they tried to escape, and knowing that they can have this control over them because the workers don't have any means to save themselves). As Barry Estabrook wrote in his book, Tomatoland: "Any American who has eaten a winter tomato, either purchased at a supermarket or on top of a fast food salad, has eaten a fruit picked by the hand of a slave. That is not an assumption, it is a fact (Douglas Molloy, US Attorney for Florida's Middle District)." "Immokalee," as Estabrook continues. "Is the town that tomatoes built."

We drove in around 3pm and went to the small, nondescript Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) office building that had been painted the strange off-yellowish color that many buildings in Florida sport. It was like a scene from a Mexican folk movie: a man sitting outside on a fold up chair listening to Mariachi music blaring through the windows while stray chickens roam the streets outside and do their best to stay out of the path of little Mexican or Guatemalan boys racking up their own point system by kicking a ball back and forth. We were there to meet up with our film subject for the day: Lupe, an immigrant from Guatemala who, like the other farm workers, lives in this town during tomato season, and then moves north to find other work in the fields. Lupe's husband has been in Northern Florida since May (the last time she saw him). So for now, she lives with her 8 year old son and another family in a (barely 2 bedroom) labor camp trailer. The trailers are small, poorly made boxes with a tiny shared kitchen (a stove, fridge and sink) -- too small for more than 3 people to be in at one time. The little bedrooms house two mattresses and multiple people who pile in at night. One room was for a mother and her 4 daughters. Lupe, whose daughter lives in Guatemala and whom she hasn't seen in 11 years, sleeps in a room only with her son. The labor camps are dotted throughout the little town of 15,000, and to live in them, the rent is steep: up to $400/week for a trailer. A ridiculous amount for farm workers who make (on a good day) $50.

And the good days are for only a couple months out of the year, and even then there is little consistency. Workers line up every morning at 4am in the parking lot of a local "Fiesta" grocery store waiting for buses to pull in looking for labor. Men and women will wait all day if need be. Many go home empty handed, hoping that the next day will be luckier. On rainy days, there will be no work for anyone. Crew leaders (those who round up the laborers and bring them to the farmers) have been known to hold back paychecks, sexually harass the women or limit their access to work. When we asked Lupe why they do this, she answered "because they can."

And that's all before getting to the farm. Once you're there, it doesn't get easier. We weren't permitted on the farms to see the actual work, but Lupe told us how laborers will spend all day in the fields picking tomatoes in the hot, hot heat. Before CIW came along, workers often had no access to water and no breaks. In some ways, things have improved slightly, however each bucket of tomatoes a worker fills (roughly 32-35 lbs) still gets them around only $0.45-$0.50. And they are picking green tomatoes -- as in, tomatoes that are not ripe. If you live in Florida and ever find yourself behind a tomato truck, you probably wouldn't know it as the fruit is completely unrecognizable. The tomatoes are picked green so that they can be gassed with chemicals to turn red and then shipped to other areas of the country. Ever notice how a fresh tomato tastes totally different from those bought in the winter? That's why. Or at least that's one reason.

But back to the workers. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is doing their best to make conditions better, by "training local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate, uncover, and prosecute existing slavery operations, in addition to working to eliminate the root causes of the problem: farm workers' structural powerlessness and grinding poverty." (Grist) Beyond helping them to know their rights, CIW also created the Campaign for Fair Food asking the major tomato purchasers in this country (fast food chains, grocery stores) to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes, and asking farmers to put that penny towards the workers. So a 32lb bucket of tomatoes harvested by a worker would result in $0.80, instead of the current $0.45-$0.50. That would mean a huge increase in wage for that worker.

The Campaign doesn't stop there, CIW also asks the major food purchasers to work with agricultural suppliers that adhere to the CIW first ever Code of Conduct, which looks out for worker rights, and creates market incentives for those suppliers willing to respect their worker's human rights, even if those rights are not guaranteed by the law. And lastly, they ask for 100% transparency for their tomato purchases in Florida. In November 2010, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement to extend the CIW's Fair Food principles - including a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process - to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields.

Taco Bell has agreed to join the plight for farm workers, as have 9 other major corporations including McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, and Whole Foods. But guess who wont: Chipotle and Trader Joe's.

Yep, the two corporations whom you would assume would be at the forefront of workers rights issues, are distancing themselves. Trader Joe's is a leading retailer of organically certified products -- one of the primary reasons for its reputation as a progressive grocer. And that Chipotle -- the company who promotes the integrity of their food and practices more than anyone -- wont partner with CIW in adopting the Fair Food Principles is especially baffling. The company's whole image is around Food with Integrity and their focus on ensuring the products they use "are grown, made and shipped without exploiting people". From Chipotle's website: "We can talk about all of the procedures and protocols we follow and how important they are - but it all really comes back to the people behind every ingredient we purchase, burrito we make, and customer we serve."

These workers are the people behind their ingredients. Instead Both Trader Joe's and Chipotle have decided to do it their "own way" in an approach that forgoes transparency and farmworker participation. Both have written statements about their uninterest in partnering with CIW. Trader Joe's says that they do not sign agreements that allow third party organizations to dictate what is right for their customers. And though they say they would buy from producers who have agreed to the Fair Food agreements, CIW says that doesn't seem to be entirely true.

So what the hell is going on? These actions seem very at odds with the Trader Joe's and Chipotle image. They both claim to be doing it their own way, but as Eric Schlosser was quoted as saying: "Claiming you support farm-worker rights but refusing to work with CIW is like someone in the '60s saying they support civil rights but they won't work with Martin Luther King, Jr. or the NAACP."

When researching information for this blog post, I found that in 2009 and 2010, tons of articles were written about just this. But nothing has changed. CIW went to protest Trader Joe's in California a couple days ago, and the issue still seems to be going strong. What's it going to take? Maybe if the two chains came down to Immokalee and saw what its like to be on the other end of the tomato, they'd change their minds. It has definitely done a number on me.

To tell Trader Joe's to change their policy toward farm workers, please sign this petition.

For more articles like this as well as videos and recipes, visit

Monday, July 25, 2011

Denver Fair Food Poker Night! (and Beanie Tournament!)

Sunday, August 7th, 5:00pm
at 6th Avenue United Church of Christ
3250 E. 6th Avenue (6th & Adams) [map]

$10 buy-in
Opportunities to buy in throughout the night!
Winner wins cash prize!

This will be a fun, laid-back environment to learn if you've never played poker.

SPECIAL: Beanie Tournament at 7:00pm! $10 to play, winner wins cash!
Beanie is a fun and fast-paced card game which is easy to pick up. Come learn if you've never played!

Food and refreshments will be available!

Proceeds will go to Denver Fair Food, a community network working in solidarity with farmworkers to fight for fair wages and human rights in the fields -

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ohio Fair Food to Kroger: We will not be moved...

... by half-measures and corporate double-talk!

This past Thursday, Kroger executives and shareholders gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, for what was supposed to be a light-hearted, festive affair celebrating the company's economic success, marked by 30 consecutive quarters of sales growth. But the party was crashed (figuratively, mind you) by an exciting new Fair Food committee, Ohio Fair Food, whose members were determined to remind Kroger and its shareholders that those exciting profits come, in part, at the cost of unconscionable farmworker poverty and exploitation in Florida's tomato fields.

Kroger is the largest supermarket chain in the country and the parent company of Colorado's leading grocery King Sooper's.

Check out the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website for a photo report from this great action (it's the June 26, 2011 post)!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NC protesters: "Quiznos has no biznos paying less for our tomatoes!"

A couple week ago the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website reported on a protest in North Carolina outside a Quiznos restaurant. We wanted to share the story of this fun and creative demonstration as well.

Students took to the streets in Winston Salem, North Carolina -- with the venerable Student Action with Farmworkers -- in a colorful and creative protest last week outside a local Quiznos. Here's a first-hand photo report, straight from our long-time allies at SAF:

Friday June 3, 2011, in Winston Salem, North Carolina, thirty students gathered together to demand that Quiznos pay one more penny per pound of tomatoes picked by Immokalee farmworkers. These students joined together from the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest to participate in Student Action with Farmworkers’ Into the Fields (ITF) summer internship and the Sowing Seeds for Change fellowship. Although they just met on the previous Wednesday, this diverse group of farmworker students and conscious Southeastern allies came together to promote justice and change.

This vocal group lined up along a sidewalk directly outside the Quiznos shopping center and chanted shame slogans in both English and Spanish. Not only were these passionate individuals, but creative as well, coming up with slogans such as “Quiznos has no buiznos, paying less for our tomatoes.” In addition to the large group that was waving signs and marching on the sidewalk, several students dispersed fliers advertising the “Penny more per Pound” campaign and history. Many interesting conversations arose from sympathetic observers, including one man who remembered picking up tomatoes from Florida farms and being shocked by the conditions that the farmworkers faced on a daily basis.

A delegation of students delivered an official letter outlining their demands of Quiznos to the store manager. The store manager was receptive to the group and said that he was concerned and supportive of the Penny more per Pound cause. Consequently, the manager agreed to sign the letter and send it to Corporate.

The satellite group of students that had spoken with the manager, and others that were dispersing pamphlets, all reunited with the larger marching group for the final moments of the action.

Great work, everyone! Summertime is clearly time for action in North Carolina.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vigilia de Solidaridad/Solidarity Vigil: herencias de esclavitud y resistencia/legacies of slavery and resistance

Monday, July 4th, 6:00pm
GEO Dentention Center
gather at the corner of 30th & Peoria

Join us outside the immigration detention center in Aurora in solidarity with all who are imprisoned, exploited or enslaved!

There will be a participatory performance exploring slavery as the common historic root of farmworker exploitation, mass incarceration of people of color and attacks on immigrants rights today.

We will also celebrate our legacies of resistance and ongoing strguggle for freedom.




Hosted by Denver Fair Food

Acompáñanos, afuera del centro de detención en Aurora, en solidaridad con tod@s los que son encarcelados, explotados y en esclavitud.

Tendremos una obra participativa explorando esclavitud como un raíz histórico común de la explotación de trabajadores de campo, encarcelación masiva de personas de color y ataques a los derechos de inmigrantes hoy.

Celebraremos nuestras herencias de resistencia y lucha seguida para liberación.

Tendremos sandia y bengalas para tod@s.

Trae tus tambores/pitos/cosas de hacer ruido!

Microfono abierto para familia y amig@s de detenidos y gente que fueron detenida antes.

Patrocinado por Denver Fair Food

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Actions around the country!

The Denver Fair Food blog hasn't been especially active lately, but that doesn't mean nothing has been happening in the Campaign fo Fair Food. To the contrary, in the last several months there have been actions around the country targeting Publix, Stop & Shop, Trader Joe's and more. See the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website - - for all the latest news.

We'd especially like to highlight our friends in Kansas and Texas.

If you look closely at the picture here, you'll see in the lower left quadrant a copy of the CIW's Quiznos Manager Letter... hung up, behind the counter of a Quiznos in McAllen, TX... by the manager... for his customers and crew to read and learn about conditions in the fields where Quiznos buys its tomatoes!

During Farmworker Awareness Week last a couple months ago, members of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, Just Harvest USA and the RGV Fair Food Committee came together for a double weekend of actions that included rallies outside of Quiznos locations throughout McAllen, TX and a 7-mile bike ride, reporting:

"Managers were very supportive overall. One even pinned up our manager letter, signed by dozens of community members, inside their restaurant's wall for all their customers to see!"

This follows our report two weeks early that a franchise owner in Quiznos' corporate hometown, "surprised everyone by saying that not only did he fully support the idea of farmworkers receiving fair wages and working conditions but he actually spoke with Quiznos Headquarters and encouraged them to sign an agreement with the CIW."

Sounds like spreading protests by Fair Food communities across the country isn't Quiznos' only problem - they might just have a growing internal revolt on their hands, too...

More recently, in the middle of this great country, representatives from "the Fair Food Kingdom in the City of Lawrence from the Land of Kansas" (aka, our good friends at Lawrence Fair Food) playfully reminded a local Dillon store (one of the many chains owned by grocery giant Kroger which also owns King Soopers) of its responsibility to do its part in improving wages and working conditions in Florida's tomato fields.

Check out the great video:

There will no doubt be more action in the Campaign for Fair Food coming including right here in Denver...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Message to Quiznos from a Florida tomato

During the Spring Blitz for Farmworker Justice, we were joined by a number of Florida tomatoes, one of which gave an inspiring speech inside the first-ever Quiznos restaurant. Sadly we had technical difficulties with the video of the speech, but without further ado we'd like to share the transcript . . .

Quiznos: I am a tomato from Immokalee, Florida and I have a message for you. I have traveled a great distance to deliver this message. Many of my dear friends spoiled next to me along the way so I do not have the same patience that these kind people of Denver have been showing you.

Your complicity in the exploitation and abuse of the humble soul who so gently plucked me from the vine that nurtured me is nothing short of shameful.

We tomatoes are enraged that our succulence is an object of profit for you at the expense of our companeras' and companeros' human rights. We know the true cost you pay for us when you leverage your large purchasing power, and we can see through your carefully calculated public relations.

One penny more and a place at the table, that is all they are asking of you. Just one penny. Think of all the pennies that my family has made for you.

A place at the table is all they want. We have been complimentary served at many of your corporate meetings, so we know its a fact there are plenty of open seats for farmworkers at those tables.

Make no mistake about it. Tomatoes everywhere proudly and decisively stand with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the principles of Fair Food.

In fact, we tomatoes have a beautiful legacy of fighting for what is right. We were harvested in Palmares and have crippled tyrants with food poisoning. Freedom fighters held captive in cold prison cells have been given strength due to our vital source of Vitamin C. It was us who provided the antioxidant Lycopene to heroic organizers like Dolores Huerta, Ella Baker, Emma Tenayuca, and, not so far away from here, Flaming Milka Sablich.

I will be on my way shortly because we have been busy the last few months, keeping rebellious bellies full from Eygpt to Wisconsin.

But before for I part, I want to leave you with some words being spoken out of Immokalee: “It is not a question of whether we will win, but when.” And we promise you that on the day victory arrives you will be able to taste its sweetness in every single tomato slice put on a Quizno sub.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chipocrisy at graduation

Last Friday, Chipotle Mexican Grill founder and CEO Steve Ells gave the commencement speech at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He repeated his well-worn mantra of "food with integrity" but, unfortunately for him, not everyone was swallowing it.

Many students (and community members) were outraged at Ells' selection as the keynote speaker for graduation. While Ells claims to be "revolutionizing the way America grows, gathers, serves and eats its food," he still refuses to work with farmworkers - that is the very people who grow and gather our food! - to further the progress they are making in revolutionizing labor relations within the agricultural industry. This inconsistency between Chipotle's words and actions when it comes to the rights of farmworkers has been going on for so long that we have a name for it: Chipocrisy.

Outside the stadium where graduation occured, we shared the truth about Steve Ells' Chipocrisy, distributing hundreds of fliers.

During his speech, we shared our own message with Ells: STOP BEING A CHIPOCRITE! SIGN ON WITH THE C.I.W. ...

ISN'T THAT FOOD WITH INTEGRITY? Mr. Ells did not respond.

Police forced us to take down our banners claiming we were violating a CU regulation which they were unable or unwilling to cite.

Afterwards, several reporters including from KGNU and the Daily Camera interviewed us.

After the ceremony, we continued to get the word out . . .

. . . were joined by a few long-time allies/new graduates like our friend Jessica from MEChA de Boulder . . .

. . . and spoke with hundreds of curious consumers. While Steve Ells may be a judge on NBC reality shows and the commencement speaker at his alma mater, we can stand firm knowing the truth is on our side.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Students to protest Steve Ells at CU graduation

The choice of Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells as this year's keynote speaker for the University of Colorado commencement ceremony has made many students (not to mention community members!) outraged. They're outraged by Chipotle's Chiprocisy - claiming to serve "food with integrity" while refusing to join in agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to establish substantive, enforceable human rights standards for the farmworkers who pick tomatoes bought by the company.

Join students and other allies at CU's graduation to educate the public and let Ells know that "food with integrity" must include respect for the women and men who harvest Chipotle's tomatoes.

Friday, May 6, 8:00am
at Folsom Field in Boulder

Also, check out this article from the CU campus paper:
CU-Boulder students to protest Chipotle CEO Steve Ells at graduation

Since 2006, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has sought to establish a Fair Food agreement with Chipotle Mexican Grill to address farmworker exploitation in Florida's tomato fields.

Chipotle has consistently rejected this opportunity and has opted instead for a go-it-alone approach that eschews transparency, third-party oversight, and meaningful worker participation. Under this plan, Chipotle will review its own code of conduct, oversee its own payments under its penny-per-pound plan, and verify its own compliance with the changes it is proposing. That's just not credible.

Chipotle's entrenched opposition to the Campaign for Fair Food is particularly puzzling given the company's highly publicized commitment to "Food With Integrity" and self-proclaimed leadership role in "revolutionizing the way America grows, gathers, serves and eats its food." On its website, Chipotle maintains:

"We can talk about all of the procedures and protocols we follow and how important they are but it all really comes back to the people behind every ingredient we purchase, burrito we make, and customer we serve....

No matter how big or small the farms we work with, it's important that every worker is treated with dignity and respect. As a result, we have several policies in
place designed to ensure that the products we use at Chipotle are grown, made,
and shipped without exploiting people."

For Florida farmworkers, however, the hype doesn't match reality. Chipotle may have created a veneer of concern, but by refusing to partner with the CIW, the minimal steps the company has taken fall far short of the substantive, enforceable standards that the situation requires, consumers expect, and others within the industry have embraced.

"Food With Integrity" is either a holistic vision that respects the men and women who harvest Chipotle's tomatoes, or it's just another marketing ploy designed to cash in on a fad. It cannot be both.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Blitz actions 2 & 3: photo report!

The Spring Blitiz for Farmworker Justice was a series of three actions calling on Quiznos to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to help ensure fair wages and human rights for the workers who harvest Quiznos' tomatoes. Without further ado, we'd like to share some photos the second and third actions:

Action 2: Return of the Tomatoes!

Our second action witnessed the return of an outraged group of Florida tomatoes who want to see justice for the workers who pick them.

Particularly exciting was the participation of a ton of youngsters like these to cherry tomatoes...
And this young person who hung out on the picket line with Mama Tomato...

Or this kiddo who contemplated what it would be like to have to fill and haul a tomato bucket which weighs more then him when full!

The rally ended with a one of the tomatoes giving a powerful speech inside the Quiznos restaurant, declaring to Quiznos: "Your complicity in the exploitation and abuse of the humble soul who so gently plucked me from the vine that nurtured me is nothing short of shameful." Full transcript and video are forthcoming!

Action 3: Cesar Chavez Day Protest

This protest, taking place on the birthday of the late farmworker organizer Cesar Chavez, was the debut of some beautiful new protest art. As musician, artist, actor, film maker and long time activist in the farmworker movement of the '60s and '70s Luis Valdez said, "one of the most importants weapons - instruments - in any cause, in any movement, in any strike is the picket sign."

Some of the new art riffed off of Quiznos' marketing slogan pointing to the distasteful reality that has made possible Quiznos' toasty subs.
While unfortunately the remembrance of Cesar Chavez has too often fallen into uncritical hero worship of a single individual, the amazing movement - in which Chavez was instrumental - was only possible do to the collective actions of thousands of farmworkers, students, people of faith, consumers and other allies.

The best tribute to the past struggles for farmworker justice, in our humble opinion, is to participate in the current struggles for farmworker justice. We'd like to think that our Spring Blitz for Farmworker Justice has added to that collective history.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Article gives a shout out to Denver Fair Food!

This recent Examiner article from Denver, as part of National Farmworker Awareness Week, takes a look at the ongoing plight faced by the nation's farm laborers as well as references our upcoming protest outside of Quiznos Corporate Headquarters (happening today!). It's worth checking out: Farmworker protests at Quiznos headquarters See you on the Picket line!

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Spring Blitz Action: Tomatoes Attack!

The first action of Spring Blitz for Farmworker Justice was a swift affair. A small cadre of tomatoes from Florida's fields - outraged at the abusive conditions conditions which they've seen the workers who pick them laborering under for decades - descended on Quiznos on Denver's busy 16th Street Mall in order to tell the Denver-based sub franchise that it must start supporting the pinciples of Fair Food established by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

The CIW's Fair Food principles are beginning to improve the wages and working conditions of tomato pickers throughout Florida. But for this new - and still fragile - era of human rights and dignity for Florida's farmworkers to thrive and grow, more companies like Quiznos need to place their substantial purchasing power behind the new higher standards.
This was the message that the Immokalee tomatoes shared with this Quiznos franchise owner. The franchise owner surprised everyone by saying that not only did he fully support the idea of farmworkers receiving fair wages and working conditions but he actually spoke with Quiznos Headquarters and encouraged them to sign an agreement with the CIW. Unfortunately, Quiznos has not taken his advise, and until it does, protests will have to continue.

And more and more consumers will be awakened to the reality that Quiznos has refused to do its part to end the exploitation of those whose labor provides the tomatoes which top its sandwhiches. Within 15 minutes, the tomatoes outside this store had passed out well over 100 fliers to curious customers and passers by. When will Quiznos finally start listening to its customers, franchisees and . . . tomatoes?
Join us for the next Spring Blitz actions:

Sunday, March 27, 12:00noon
Quiznos at 1275 Grant St. (13th & Grant)[map]
Picket at 1st ever Quiznos

Thursday, March 31, 12:00noon
Quiznos Headquarters, 1001 17th St. (17th & Curtis)[map]
Cesar Chavez Day Protest and Rally! honor the continuing struggle for farmworker justice!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Updates: Denver at the "Do the Right Thing" March, César Chávez Day March and more

In Denver, we may be gearing up for the Spring Blitz for Farmowker Justice, but we wanted to give a quick update about recent happenings and upcoming events.

Pictured here are the Denver Fair Foodistas who traveled to Tampa, Florida to participate in the CIW's "Do the Right Thing" March. Also pictured are our friends from Kansas and Illinois (many of whom we first met at the No Coast Encuentro in Denver last fall) who did the 64-hour-round-trip drive with us.

In the background are the props from the popular treatro which was the powerful culmination of an incredible weekend of action which included plantones throughout the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa and three different marches which ended with what one Denver protester is quoted as calling "the biggest picket line I've ever seen in my life!"

Marching as partners with workers from Immokalee in this inspiring movement, we were confirmed in the fact, as the CIW's Lucas Benitez said, "it's not a question of whether we will win, but when . . ."

You can see all the amazing reports from the entire "Do the Right Thing" Tour, including photos, video and press, by going to this site: "Do the Right Thing" Tour

Back here in Denver, everyone should mark their calendars for the 10th Annual César Chávez Day March:

Satuardy, March 26
Mass at 8:45am at St. Anthony of Padua, 3401 W. Ohio Ave.
March at 10:00am
Celebration and Food at 11:00am at Denver Indian Center, 4407 Morrison Rd.

Also Denver's Labor Council For Latin American Advancement will be hosting their annual César Chávez Dinner-Dance on Saturday, March 26, 6:00pm at the VFW Hall, 4747 W. Colfax. There will be food, live music, dancing and more. Contact for details.

Denver Fair Food will no doubt be honoring the late labor leader who fought so hard for the rights of farmworkers. But we'll also be honoring the ongoing struggle for farmworker jutice by participating in the Spring Blitz for Farmworker Justice which includes an action on César Chávez' birthday - March 31.

Contact if you would like to invite us to speak with your class, congregation, union, community group or school about the ongoing struggle for farmworker rights and how they can get involved!

Finally, folks who follow this blog may also be interested in the upcoming Conference on Religion, Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery sponsored by the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


"Justice too long delayed is justice denied." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

3 weeks of protest against Quiznos and for farmworkers' human rights!

Friday, March 18, 12:00noon
Quiznos at 216 16th St. (one block W. of Broadway)[map]
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Dress like a tomato!

Sunday, March 27, 12:00noon
Quiznos at 1275 Grant St. (13th & Grant)[map]
Picket at 1st ever Quiznos

Thursday, March 31, 12:00noon
Quiznos Headquarters, 1001 17th St. (17th & Curtis)[map]
Cesar Chavez Day Protest and Rally! honor the continuing struggle for farmworker justice!

A new era of human rights, fair wages and dignity - for which farmworkers have been fighting for so long - is taking hold in Florida's tomato fields. Yet, despite Quiznos' promises to the contrary, the Denver-based fast food chain still refuses to adopt the principles which would allow these changes to spread and thrive. The workers who pick tomatoes which end up on Quiznos' subs can no longer tolerate the delay of justice. And neither can we!

Join us, in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to push for an end to the farmworker exploitation which has subsidized Quiznos' profits for too long.

contact for more info.

Florida's farmworkers have long faced brutal conditions. They earn sub-poverty wages, have no right to form unions or to over-time pay, lack traditional employment benefits such as health, sick leave or pensions, and have not received a significant raise in nearly 30 years. At the current rate of .50 cents per 32lb bucket, a Florida tomato picker must harvest over TWO TONS just to earn the equivalent of minimum wage for a typical 10 hour. In the most extreme situations workers are held in modern-day slavery and forced to work against their will.

However, there is a new hope on the horizon, thanks to the hard-fought campaigns of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community-base organization of Haitian, Latino and Mayan farmworkers in Florida. Today, nine leading food corporations (including Subway, McDonald's and Burger King) and over 90% of the Florida tomato industry have joined to support the CIW's Fair Food principles, including a penny-per-pound piece rate wage increase, a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process.

However, Quiznos - which continues to profit from the exploitation of farmworkers - has yet to do its part. While there have been discussions with the CIW, those talks continue to drag on because Quiznos won't agree to the same Fair Food principles that the entire Florida tomato industry has already adopted. Visit or for more info.
Empuje de Primera por la Justicia de los Trabajadores Agricolas!
Manifestaciones contra Quiznos y por los derechos humanos de campesinos

Domingo, 27 de Marzo, 12:00 pm
Quiznos en el 1275 Grant St.
(en la esquina de las calles 13 y Grant)

Jueves, 31 de Marzo, 12:00 pm
La Oficina Central de Quiznos, 1001 17th St.
(en la esquina de las calles 17 y Curtis)
Protesta del Dia de Cesar Chavez. Apoya la lucha de los trabajadores agricolas!

Una nueva época de derechos humanos, sueldos justos, y dignidad, esta tomando la industria de jitomates en el estado de Florida por nuevos y mejores cambios. Pero Quiznos, una empresa que consede aqui en Denver, sigue rechazando los principos que dejarian que estos cambios se realizen para todos. Los trabajadores que cosechan los jitomates que usa Quiznos ya no pueden esperar la justicia, y nosotros tampoco!

Los trabajadores que cosechan jitomates en Florida han enfrentado condiciones brutales por mucho tiempo: ganan sueldos bajo la línea de pobreza, no tienen el derecho de formar sindicatos o a obtener pago por horas extras trabajadas. También se les prohíbe ciertos beneficios de trabajo fundamentales como seguro de salud, días de ausencia por enfermedad o pensiones, y no han recibido un aumento de sueldo significante en casi 30 anos. Hoy en día a los trabajadores se les paga .50 centavos por cubeta de 32 libras, esto quiere decir que un trabajador necesita cosechar más de DOS TONELADAS Y MEDIAS de jitomates solo para así ganar un sueldo mínimo equivalente a un día de trabajo de 10 horas. En los casos más extremos son detenidos dentro de una esclavitud moderna y forzados a trabajar en contra de su voluntad.

En estos días hay una nueva esperanza, gracias a los grandes esfuerzos y campañas de La Coalición de Trabajadores de Immokalee (CIW) - una organización principalmente de trabajadores latinos, haitianos y mayas. Hoy en día 9 de las corporaciones mayores de comida rápida (incluyendo a Subway, McDonald’s y Burger King) y más que 90 % de la industria de jitomates de la Florida han decidido apoyar los principios de la comida justa. Estos incluyen pagar un centavo más por cada libra de jitomates que es cosechado, un estricto código de conducta, un sistema de resolución de quejas, un programa de salud y seguridad, y un proceso de educación de trabajador a trabajador.

Sin embargo Quiznos - quien continua beneficiándose de la explotación de los trabajadores que cosechan jitomates — todavía necesita hacer su parte. Mientras las discusiones con el CIW y Quiznos si han sucedido, no hay avance porque Quiznos no se decide a apoyar los principios que la industria de jitomates en Florida ya ha adaptado. Visita el para más información.

"Quiz-No!": Quiznos protests spring up around the country!

Protests against Quiznos are springing up around the country! In addition to the many actions that have been happening in Denver and the recent one in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, there have been protests in San Francisco, in the West, and New York to the East.

Pictured here in the Bay Area Fair Food crew crashing an open house at which Quiznos was trying to recruit new franchisees. Instead of just getting a slick sales pinch, potential Quiznos store owners were awakened to the reality of exploitation occurring in the fields from which Quiznos sources tomatoes and Quiznos' refusal to adopt the CIW's Fair Food principles which are establishing an era of justice in those fields.

Go to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website for a quick photoreport of all the actions (including our most recent in Denver!):
"Quiz-NO!" Photo Report

And prepare yourself for the SPRING BLITZ For FARMWORKER JUSTICE coming up in March right here in Denver!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Special Report from the Rio Grande Valley (and exclusive Quiznos Coupon offer!)

Last Sunday, our compañer@s in Texas' Rio Grande Valley had a powerful protest outside a Quiznos franchise in their neck of the woods. We're so inspired by their example that we're turning over this post to their beautiful words and actions. As outrage at Quiznos spreads across the country, we hope that those in Quiznos Corporate Headquarters in downtown Denver pay attention.

After you check out their fun photo report, be sure to take advantage of the exclusive Quiznos Coupon offered below. Redeem it today!

Texas - Sunday afternoon was no ordinary day. The Quiznos Picket in the Rio Grande Valley had the passing cars honking, our creative juices flowing, and Quiznos Franchise owners at attention. The Valley wind yesterday added to the excitement, as if chanting along with us, Hey, hey, ho, ho, Quiz Knows Better and has got to go! Nature is on our side!

A group of worker’s rights supporters started the afternoon by laying down the 411 for Quizno’s employees…

of our enthusiastic intention of raising consumer awareness of Quiznos participation in farmworker exploitation!

Thirty minutes into our mission, Quiznos franchise owners approached our public piece of turf to huff and puff about our presence hurting their business, since we were, as he put it, “portraying Quiznos as being unfair.” This is true. We’ve been waiting on Quiznos for a good minute now to come to the table with the CIW and agree to the same Fair Food Code of Conduct that the entire Florida tomato industry has already adopted! - a code which improves pay, establishes enforceable standards for worker rights and solidifies farmworkers' voice in the decisions which impact their lives. We made it pretty clear that our time waiting won’t be spent with our arms crossed.

He wasn’t too pleased. So we handed him a coupon, which makes everyone happy, and encouraged him to redeem today!

“Hey, Mister! Have you redeemed your Quiznos coupon, yet? When Quiznos decides to pay one cent more per pound of tomatoes, we include a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process! REDEEM TODAY! We’ll also leave you and your business alone!”

Standing strong with campesinos desde el Valle! Our coupons have yet to expire so be sure to print and redeem yours today!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Quit breaking our hearts, Quiznos!" Photo report and Spring Blitz announcement

Last Saturday we held a sweet little Valentine-themed protest in Denver's Capital Hill outside the first-ever Quiznos restaurant. Our hearts have been breaking because Quiznos can't commit to showing farmworkers the respect they deserve.

Quiznos is still holding out against agreeing to the same Fair Food Code of Conduct that the entire Florida tomato industry has already adopted - a code which improves pays, establishes enforceable standards for worker rights and solidifies farmworkers' voice in the decisions which impact their lives. But we're not going to accept Quiznos' feet-dragging any longer. The question to Quiznos is simply: will the fast-casual sub chain help usher in the new era of dignity for farmworkers or will it continue to maintain a status quo of poverty and sweatshops in the tomato fields of Florida?
We made clear which side we're on; we're on the side of farmworkers - some of the nation's poorest and most exploited workers. Pictured here is a Denver Fair Food member being interviews by a reporter from KGNU.

And as the spokesperson from our delegation made clear while delivering dozens of valentines to the lone Quiznos employee on duty that day, if Quiznos does not join the side of justice for farmworkers, we will be intensifying the protests. In fact . . .

We already made plans . . .
Save the dates
Spring Blitz for Farmworker Justice
Friday, March 18th, 12:00noon
Saturday, March 26th, 12:00noon
Thursday, March 31st (Cesar Chavez Day!), 12:00noon
Locations to be announced.
Join us for a month of actions against Quiznos and for farmworkers' human rights!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Action Alert! "Quit breaking our hearts, Quiznos!"

Come to this Valentine's-themed protest at Quiznos and show your love for farmworkers!!!

Saturday, February 12, 12:00noon
1275 Grant St. (13th & Grant)
the first-ever Quiznos restaurant

For months, Quiznos has promised that it would soon be joining in agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to improve the wages and working conditions of farmworkers who pick tomatoes bought by the company. But the Denver-based fast food chain continues to drag its feet, delaying the dreams of thousands of farmworkers for dignity and justice, and that's breaking our hearts!

Join Denver Fair Food and the Student/Farmworker Alliance to demand that Quiznos make Fair Food a reality!

Florida farmworkers who pick tomatoes are among the nation's most exploited workers: they earn sub-poverty wages, have no right to form unions or to over-time pay, lack traditional employment benefits such as health, sick leave or pensions, and have not received a significant raise in nearly 30 years. At the current rate, a Florida tomato picker must harvest over TWO TONS just to earn the equivalent of minimum wage for a typical 10 hour. In the most extreme situations workers are held in modern-day slavery and forced to work against their will.

In 2001, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - a grassroots organization of migrant farmworkers based in Florida - and their allies launched the Campaign for Fair Food, calling on retail food industry leaders to address the egregious working conditions and poverty stemming from these companies' high-volume/low-cost purchasing practices. As a result, the CIW has reached historic agreements with McDonald's, Burger King, Subway and others to directly improve farmworker wages and working conditions and set new standards for social responsibility in Florida agriculture.

Despite these breakthroughs, Quiznos - who profits from the exploitation of farmworkers due to the sheer volume of its tomato purchases - has yet to take responsibility. While there has been discussions with the CIW, those talks continue to drag on because Quiznos won't agree to the same Fair Food Code of Conduct that the entire Florida tomato industry has already adopted. Visit for more info.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Denver Fair Food Poker Night! (and Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament!)

Saturday, February 5th, 6:00pm
at 6th Avenue United Church of Christ
3250 E. 6th Avenue (6th & Adams)

$10 buy-in
Opportunities to buy in throughout the night!
Winner will receive a cash prize!

This will be a fun, laid-back environment to learn if you've never played poker.

SPECIAL: Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament at 8:00pm for a chance to win a new Ipod Touch!

Refreshments will be available!

Proceeds will go to Denver Fair Food, a community network working in solidarity with farmworkers to fight for fair wages and human rights in the fields.
And join us at the Quiznos Action on Saturday, February 12th, 12noon at 13th & Grant outside the first-ever Quiznos. Show your love for farmworker justice and tell Quiznos to stop breaking our hearts!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Two great blog posts untangle Chipotle's spin

The people at have been writing some great stuff about the Campaign for Fair Food. Here are a couple great posts about Chipotle's ongoing stubborn refusal to show farmworkers the respect they deserve. Both the posts respond directly to Chipotle's misleading claims that it has already solved the 'farmworker problem.' These posts are from a couple months ago but we thought we'd post them now to remind Chipotle that the company is by no means off the hook.

While you're at it, sign the petition demanding that Chipotle sign a Fair Food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and let Chipotle know that you're not fooled by their PR spin.

And stay tuned for more news about Chipotle's unpleasant relationship with immigrant workers...

Is Chipotle Still Profiting from Modern-Day Slavery?
by Kristen Ridley November 08, 2010

Chipotle is something of a beacon in the world of fast food. The company has gone out of its way to source humane, non-factory-farmed meat and an ever-increasing percentage of organic beans and produce. This commitment to sustainability has helped make Chipotle one of the world's fastest-growing restaurant chains, but unfortunately it seems that the commitment does not extend to the workers who plant and pick the Mexican restaurant's food.

As editor Sarah Parsons wrote last month, modern-day agricultural slavery is unfortunately alive and well. Conditions for the workers who pick our food are bad enough given the lack of labor protections and overtime pay, but in the most extreme cases, the workers are actual slaves. They are kept in debt and controlled with sexual and physical violence, along with the ever-present threat of deportation. In September, federal prosecutors announced forced labor indictments in what the FBI is calling the "largest human trafficking case ever charged in U.S. history."

At least 400 Thai workers were lured here with the promise of guest worker visas, only to have their passports stolen and be forced to work without pay once they arrived. It is the ninth time Florida producers have been implicated since 1997. The Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers labor organization (CIW) has an amazing track record in fighting these kinds of abuses. The non-profit has gotten nearly every major fast food chain — except Chipotle — to sign accountability agreements with the CIW as part of its Campaign for Fair Food.

Restaurants agree to prioritize and reward producers who meet the CIW's standards and code of conduct by paying a penny more per pound of produce. CIW has now turned its sights to supermarkets and food service companies and has already won some big victories on that front. The CIW has earned praise from human rights organizations the world over, and even from the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

In light of Chipotle's stated philosophy of "Food With Integrity," Chipotle's continued refusal to join with the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food, or indeed even to meet with the non-profit, is appalling, not to mention bewildering. Chipotle has tried every tactic from silence to shams to avoid the CIW. Most recently, the company decided to take a go-it-alone approach, claiming that it agreed to the penny-per-pound increase and reviews of labor standards.

News outlets ran with the story and helped Chipotle crow its efforts, but the CIW immediately criticized the plan as lacking any transparency or true accountability, as well as disallowing the workers themselves to have any voice in the process.

It's time for Chipotle to stop the spin and the evasion and live up to its motto of "Food With Integrity."

Sign our petition telling the company so. While you're at it, add your voice to the campaign to get Trader Joe's to sign an agreement with the CIW. It's about time the companies that take advantage of a sustainable reputation actually follow through with their ideals.

Tell Chipotle to Sign Anti-Slavery Agreement - Sign the Petition

Don't Fall For Chipotle's Spin on Slavery
by Kristen Ridley November 11, 2010

I wrote about Chipotle's refusal to meet with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and sign on to the organization's Campaign for Fair Food. The campaign fights farm worker exploitation, and several major fast food chains have already joined the Fair Food Fight. More than 100 members signed our petition asking Chipotle to sign on to CIW's Campaign for Fair Food, and many were confused by the response we received back from the Mexican restaurant. The response read in part:

"When Chipotle signed an agreement with East Coast Growers last year to improve wages and working conditions for farm workers who pick our tomatoes, it was an important step toward getting tomato growers to take action on this issue. Today, all of the tomatoes we use in our restaurants come from growers who have signed on with the CIW and its Campaign for Fair Food to ensure better wages and working conditions for farm workers."

This is the latest way in which Chipotle has justified refusing to sign a Fair Food agreement or even have a discussion with the CIW, the nation's most preeminent force battling agricultural slavery and exploitation in the United States. But the CIW immediately blasted these claims as mere spin when Chipotle first started spewing this rubbish. The CIW's Gerardo Reyes and Sean Sellars wrote for Grist and detailed why Chipotle's response just isn't good enough.

While it's heartening that Chipotle, after years of silence and stalling, has finally acknowledged that working conditions for farmers need to improve, the policies that the restaurant touts do not represent real change. There is absolutely no accountability or transparency in the company's plan. Chipotle currently decides for itself what standards growers need to meet and whether they are meeting them. No one is checking up on Chipotle — consumers just have to take the company's word for it. And as Reyes points out, farm workers still "have no role in Chipotle's plan."

Chipotle's claiming sole credit for the East Coast Growers' decision to improve working conditions and institute a penny-per-pound wage increase is particularly bile-inducing. Several parties were involved in the negotiations that led to that decision, but it's clear that Chipotle played a very, very small role. At the time of the East Coast Growers' decision, Chipotle had just 830 stores. Compare that with the 65,000 stores that were bound by agreements with the CIW, and we begin to see who really had the bargaining power. Chipotle is trying to take credit for the hard work of the CIW and its Campaign for Fair Food, the very campaign that the restaurant refuses to join. It's despicable, and I honestly expect better from a company that claims to have a high regard for integrity.

Many before have been fooled by Chipotle's spin on this issue, but now you know what's up. Sign our petition telling Chipotle to stop the games and the PR-speak and sign on to the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food.

Tell Chipotle to Sign Anti-Slavery Agreement - Sign the Petition

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Action

Last Monday, a small group of Fair Food activists marked the New Year with a spirited picket outside Quiznos' flagship store and under the gaze of Quiznos' corporate headquarters.

With our protest, we were writing a New Year's Resolution for the sub sandwich giant: This year, and sooner rather than later, Quiznos will place its massive purchasing power behind the principles of Fair Food in order to put an end to the human rights crisis occuring in Florida's tomato industry. And to see to it that Quiznos fulfill this resolution, we made a resolution of our own...
Our campaign will escalate, our actions will intensify, our voices will become louder and angrier, our determination will harden, our power will grow...
Until Quiznos resolves to support the new dawn of human rights in Florida agriculture, we resolve that actions like the small one last Monday will increase in size and frequency and veracity.

Dignity, respect, control over one's own destiny, freedom from poverty, slavery and abuse - farmworkers have never been closer to seeing these fundamental rights become a reality. This reality is too important to be compromised or delayed. The road ahead is clear, Quiznos.