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.