Food With Integrity?

“There can be no legitimate definition of ‘integrity,’ sustainability or social responsibility when it comes to food without the participation of farmworkers and respect for our fundamental human rights.” Oscar Otzoy, CIW

CIW, allies on the ground in Denver issue press release ahead of next week’s “Cultivate” festival in Chipotle’s hometown!

Two weeks ago, Chipotle held its first “Cultivate” festival of the year in Chicago. Though the company did its best to construct what one reporter called “a utopian smorgasbord of gourmet food, local farmers, celebrity chefs and free music,” the Campaign for Fair Food was there like the proverbial fly in the punchbowl, reminding festival goers of the one — and essential — missing ingredient in its recipe for “Food with Integrity”: respect for farmworkers.

From “In These Times” (“At Utopian Chipotle Festival, Immokalee Workers Protest ‘Food With Integrity’,” 9/25/12):

“… A cross between Bonaroo and the urban farmer’s markets sprouting up across the country, “Cultivate” took over a portion of Lincoln Park on September 15. Even as the striking Chicago Teachers Union held a massive rally a few miles to the southwest, the atmosphere was indeed festive as thousands wandered through a utopian smorgasbord of gourmet food, local farmers, celebrity chefs and free music in one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. Those in search of food system enlightenment could earn a free burrito by visiting four of five “experience tents” to learn about avocados, sustainable apparel or pig farms, or watch Chipotle-produced films.

But I didn’t see any farm workers until I left the festival. Up on a small ridge about 100 feet from a festival entrance stood CIW’s makeshift wall of 153 tomato buckets. A Florida farm worker has to fill all of them in a typical 10-hour work day to make minimum wage; full, each weighs 32 pounds. Leonel Perez didn’t mince words about what he thinks of Chipotle when I asked him why he was in Chicago.

‘We want Chipotle to be the company they profess to be by having workers be part of the picture, and have workers be the ones that are fighting for their own rights,’ said Perez, a CIW staff member and farm worker, noting that the usual fast-food suspects—McDonald’s Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway—have all signed agreements with CIW to pay Florida tomato pickers a penny-per-pound more. ‘What those companies have done, which Chipotle has refused to do, is to partner with farmworkers to respect their human rights.'” read more

This October 6th, the moveable feast that is the Cultivate festival will make its way to Chipotle’s hometown of Denver, and the Campaign for Fair Food will be there, too. The organizing team arrived in Denver over a week ago, and has been reaching out to local student, faith, and community groups — a coalition spearheaded by the remarkable Denver Fair Food — ever since to build momentum for a full day of protests on the 6th.

Yesterday, the team issued a press release to announce its plans for the day of actions, and will be holding a press conference with Denver area allies this coming Monday morning outside Chipotle’s corporate headquarters (where the bucket pyramid will be making another appearance!). Here below is an excerpt from the release:

“… The protest coincides with Chipotle’s ‘Cultivate Festival’ — a celebration of the restaurant chain’s commitment to ethical purchasing practices, “bringing together food, farmers, chefs, artisans, thought leaders, and musicians,” and is part of a larger, national Fair Food movement, asking Chipotle to join the CIW’s innovative Fair Food Program and respect farmworkers’ rights and dignity.

‘As farmworkers – the human beings actually confronting the poverty wages and labor abuses every day in the fields – we have yet to have a role in Chipotle’s vision,’ explained Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. ‘Instead, Chipotle insists on pursuing an impossible ‘go it alone’ approach to social responsibility. 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 commitment are essential elements of the agreements we have reached with other fast- food leaders, and they are fundamental aspects in any defensible definition of social responsibility.’

The Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmworkers, tomato growers, and ten leading food retailers – including major fast food corporations Subway, McDonald’s and Burger King – that advances both the human rights of farmworkers and the long-term interests of the Florida tomato industry. It is the first large scale program for real, lasting social accountability in the domestic produce industry. The program improves the wages and working conditions of Florida farmworkers by committing major buyers of tomatoes to pay a premium of a “penny per pound” for tomatoes to be passed through to farmworkers by the growers for whom they work. Additionally, retailers commit to target their purchases to growers willing to implement the Fair Food Code of Conduct developed together by farmworkers, growers, and buyers. The Fair Food Program combines worker-to-worker education, a 24-hr complaint line that is confidential and free of retaliation, ongoing audits that follow up on complaints and uncover issues workers might not be aware of, and, most importantly, real-market consequences for failure to comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct…” read more

There is much more to come in the days ahead as we ramp up to the big day, so check back soon for all the latest from Denver!