Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chipotle Day of Action: From coast to coast, the message is clear...

Stop the Chipocrisy, start working with the CIW in a real, verifiable, and respectful partnership for human rights in your tomato supply chain -- now!

One thing we've learned from more than a decade of the Campaign for Fair Food is that ignoring your customers is never a winning strategy. Neither is trying to trick them.
People demanding a change whose time has come don't go away just because you turn your back on them. Nor do they fall for half measures or paternalistic reassurances that, though they may not agree or even understand, their concerns are in fact being heard and addressed.

The history of movements for human rights -- of movements to end the systematic exploitation, humiliation, and abuse of one class of human beings by another -- shows us that efforts by the exploiter to detain or delay progress are, ultimately, futile. In the words of Dr. King's far more eloquent formulation, "How long? Not long! Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

This week, a new chapter is being written in that history, through the ever-expanding campaign calling on Chipotle to live up to its claims of sustainability, to recognize farmworkers as partners in its success, and to join the CIW's Fair Food Program to eliminate human rights abuses in Florida's tomato fields. And the authors of this latest chapter are a growing wave of Fair Food activists that took to the streets this week in 25 cities across the country -- and across the Atlantic Ocean, in London, England -- to take the fight to Chipotle.

The protests' message was captured in a quote from Gerardo Reyes of the CIW:
“As farmworkers – the human beings actually confronting the poverty wages and labor abuses every day in the fields – we have no role in Chipotle’s plan,” explained Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “Under their plan, Chipotle says it will review its own code of conduct and decide if any changes are needed, Chipotle will check its own payments for accuracy under its penny per pound plan, and Chipotle will verify its own compliance with the changes it is proposing. That’s just not credible. Transparency, verification, and participation are essential elements of the agreements we have reached with other fast-food leaders, and they are essential elements in any defensible definition of social responsibility.” read more
And echoed in a quote by Karen Dwyer, a Fair Food activist speaking to National Public Radio about the Chipotle protest in Naples, Florida:
"Without the agreement, the promise is not enforceable. It's a partnership, this Fair Food Agreement, it only works if everyone works together. And Chipotle wants to go-it-alone, just buy the tomatoes from those tomato growers that have already signed on to this agreement. But, the problem with that is then there's no verification. It's not a credible, contractual agreement and it cannot be verified." read more
But, ultimately, it was best expressed in over two dozen protests in signs, chants and one-to-one exchanges with Chipotle customers and managers at Chipotle restaurants across the country. Here below are a few of the first-hand reports from some of the actions:
London, England: "We found out on Monday that Chipotle has plans to expand in the UK. So we're pretty pleased that by Wednesday we had a half a dozen people from all around the country handing out several hundred leaflets at one of the three already existing branches in London! We had a great response from passers-by and most of the customers that we spoke to. Some said they would think twice before eating there again. We can make Chipotle feel that wherever they try and open a branch there will be a local group ready with leaflets."

New York City: "Community Farmworker Alliance (CFA) in NYC hosted two days of action targeting Chipotle for their refusal to come to the table with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and sign the fair food agreement. On Tuesday, July 24th members of CFA, joined by Oscar Otzoy of CIW joined with over one thousand low wage workers as part of a #nyrising action to call on corporations and employers to respect their employees and pay them a living wage. As part of the action, the marchers gathered at Chipotle demanding farmworker justice.

On July 25th, over 50 community members and activists joined with Oscar and CIW to hold a picket in front of Chipotle and deliver hundreds of signed postcards asking Chipotle to do the right thing. As new Chipotle's continue to open in NYC, CFA will keep the pressure up to let them know that until they serve food with real integrity, we won't stop knocking at the door."

Twin Cities, MN: "We went with around 15 people from four different organizations (Land Stewardship Project, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, CTUL, and University of Minnesota Chicano Studies Program) and delivered 500 petition signatures from people in the Twin Cities calling on Chipotle to sign the Fair Food Agreement with CIW, and let them know that we would be bringing thousands more signatures in the future. the manager was generally supportive and said he would call the general manager that day, and we are going to follow up with him about that conversation."

Columbus, Ohio: "We had a great action last evening in Columbus, Ohio with 30+ participants. It was a good intersection of students, faith community, local activists and new supporters of Ohio Fair Food and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. We even had a couple of people walking by who asked who we were and why we there, then decided to join us!

A small delegation went to speak with the manager. There was someone from the regional office waiting for us and observing our action. We had an extensive conversation with her about who we are and our expectations for Chipotle. We are pleased to say that support in Ohio is growing."

Albuquerque, NM: "Unfortunately we were not able to get any photos, but 7 of us stood outside the Chipotle in Albuquerque from 5-7p.m. We also talked to two employees and a manager, they all told us they supported the cause. Also most of the customers and people, including the manager, that we talked to, told us they were shocked. Also the manager said that they had no problem with us standing outside Chipotle, and said our presence was "quite impressive!"

Thats all from us for now. UNM Fair Trade Initiative, a student group at the University of New Mexico, said they were going to take up the torch and take this on as their fall project. So we let the manager know that we will be coming back."
There are many, many more reports that have made their way into the CIW already, and many more to come, so check back soon for a complete round-up when all the actions are a wrap next week.

Finally, we have the message as conveyed in the media. Perhaps the very best story on the protests came, not surprisingly, from the food movement blog in a piece that covered the action at a Chipotle restaurant in Oakland entitled, "Taking on Chipotle with the Campaign for Fair Food". Here's an excerpt:
"... Though Chipotle works with some of the same growers that McDonald’s does, they have been refusing to sign the Fair Food agreement with the CIW, despite their hearty advertisement as an ethical eatery that purchases from local and sustainable farms that supply ingredients that are “raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers.”

“Change is an equation that includes workers, growers, buyers, and consumers,” says Jake Ratner, the community coordinator at Just Harvest, and “Chipotle’s stance represents an arrogant approach to food justice.”

Essentially, corporations have benefited from the free market and the politics that have created a history of corporate control. This has not served the laborers that bring the food to the table, and it has belied a mask of consumer choice with low prices that don’t reflect the true cost of the food being sold. In response, the CIW has established its own department of labor that sets wage standards and worker and corporate accountability. They are working one-on-one with the farms and big buyers, rather than relying on government (which has historically been too late to the table in responding to slavery in the fields, for example, and many other travesties that were supposed to be regulated). This is working towards a real sustainability that goes beyond organics and sets honest standards for both workers and buyers.

“The campaign may not be taking on the Farm Bill or global trade policy directly,” said Kandace Eloisa Vallejo, a board member at Just Harvest. “But they are taking on chain restaurants and grocery stores,” which, she said, may prove more effective in the end.

The movement for fair food and farmworker justice is growing. Many of those working in the food movement will be called to take action to show solidarity with farm labor rights as a critical component in their work towards a sustainable food system." read more
We send you into your weekend with a collection of all the media links from the Day of Action protests:

SW Florida:
Thanks to everyone who made the Chipotle Day of Action such a huge success!

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