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

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