Posts tagged Chipotle

Coalition of Immokalee Workers victory in Denver; struggle in Miami

This month brings a couple of big news updates from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their ongoing wildcat labor campaign to raise wages and improve conditions for Florida tomato-pickers. First, an important victory — the CIW has won an agreement with Chipotle. Second, a reminder about interconnections, alliances and new campaigns in Florida, with the ongoing pickets and migrant farmworkers now joining the struggle against the School of the Americas.

From Denver — victory in the long-running Chipotle campaign:

CHIPOTLE SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH CIW TO JOIN FAIR FOOD PROGRAM

DENVER, October 4, 2012 – Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker-based human rights organization, have reached an agreement that brings Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable food to the CIW’s Fair Food Program. The agreement, which will improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers in Florida who pick tomatoes for Chipotle, comes in advance of the winter tomato-growing season, when most of the nation’s tomatoes come from growers in Florida.

The Fair Food Program provides a bonus for tomato pickers to improve wages and binds growers to protocols and a code of conduct that explicitly include a voice for workers in health and safety issues, worker-to-worker education on the new protections under the code, and a complaint resolution procedure which workers can use without fear of retaliation. The Program also provides for independent third party audits to ensure compliance.

With this agreement, we are laying down a foundation upon which we all – workers, growers, and Chipotle – can build a stronger Florida tomato industry for the future, said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. But more than this, today’s news marks a turning point in the sustainable food movement as a whole, whereby, thanks to Chipotle’s leadership, farmworkers are finally recognized as true partners — every bit as vital as farmers, chefs, and restaurants — in bringing ‘good food’ to our tables.

. . .

Chipotle becomes the 11th company to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, which is designed to create a sustainable tomato industry through respect for the rights and concerns of all involved. The Fair Food Premium paid by participating buyers like Chipotle is used to help participating growers improve wages and working conditions for Florida farmworkers.

— Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Chipotle Mexican Grill, joint press release, October 4, 2012. Emphasis added.

CIW announced that with this agreement, all plans for upcoming actions against Chipotle have been cancelled. Chipotle is now participating in the penny-per-pound program through its agreement with CIW.

From Miami:

CIW, allies join forces in Miami to protest Publix, School of the Americas, in support of human rights!

More Publix actions in the pipeline…

All too many CIW members came to this country years ago fleeing widespread political oppression in their home countries at the hands of military dictators and their subordinates who had one thing in common — they were trained at the School of the Americas (SOA),[1] an infamous military training facility located at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. The SOA boasts a long track record of graduates responsible for brutal human rights violations in CIW member home countries including Haiti, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Because of this deep connection, and because the struggle for human rights is without borders, the CIW has joined with members of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) for nearly a decade in their untiring efforts to end human rights abuses throughout Latin America. This past weekend in Miami was no exception, as CIW members and their families joined SOAW members for a march in Miami . . ., then continued from there, with the support of the SOAW marchers, to a march on a Miami-area Publix store that stretched a full city block:

There are many more Publix protests in the weeks ahead, including a picket at the grand opening of the Dunedin Publix (902 Curlew Rd) this coming Thursday morning, Oct 18th, at 7:30 AM. We’ll be there bright and early for the ribbon cutting, so don’t miss it!

You can contact us for more details on how you can join us at the Dunedin picket, and other Publix protests in the month of October, at workers@ciw-online.org.

— Coalition of Immokalee Workers, October 15, 2012.

As I said in 2005, after the CIW’s first big groundbreaking victory in their Taco Bell campaign:

This is a major victory for the CIW and for farmworkers as a whole. There’s a lot that organized labor can learn from it: how CIW won while overcoming barriers of language and nationality, assembling a remarkable coalition in solidarity (from students to fellow farmworkers to religious organizations and onward), drawing on the dispersed talents of agitators and activists in communities all across the country, and making some brilliant hard-nosed strategic decisions (e.g., the decision a couple of years ago to begin the Boot the Bell campaign—which hit Taco Bell where it hurts by denying it extremely lucrative contracts with college and University food services). I only know a bit of the story from following the boycott, and I already know that it’s a pretty remarkable story to tell. I look forward to hearing more.

It’s also — although you won’t hear this as much — a major victory for government-free, syndicalist labor organizing. The CIW is not a bureaucratic government-recognized union; as a form of organizing it’s far closer to an autonomous workers’ syndicate or a local soviet (in the old sense of a democratic, community-based workers’ council, not in the sense of the hollow state apparatus that the Bolsheviks left after the party committees seized power at bayonet-point). Of course, not having the smothering comfort of the US labor bureaucracy to prop them up has often made things harder on the CIW; but it’s also made them freer, and left them free of the restraints on serious and innovative labor activism that have held the government-authorized union movement back for the past 60 years. (Example: the strategic decision to target Taco Bell in the first place—that is, the whole damned campaign that allowed the Immokalee workers to win such a huge improvement in their standard of living—was a secondary boycott, and so would have been illegal under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act and the Landrum-Griffin Act. But since the CIW doesn’t need a permission slip from the NLRB to engage in direct action, they won the day—not in spite of, but because of their freedom from government restraints on labor organizing.

— Charles Johnson, El pueblo unido jamás será vencido,, Rad Geek People’s Daily, March 23, 2005.

As I wrote a few years later, after their victory in a campaign to win an agreement from Subway:

The Blockheads of the world may insist that unions survive only through violence, and win only through either the intervention of the State or vigilantism against non-unionized fellow workers. Yet somehow, today, I find this message from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — and a similar e-mail from their allies in the Student/Farmworker Alliance — a southern Florida farmworker’s union that uses nonviolent protest, secondary boycotts, and other creative pressure campaigns on behalf of Florida tomato pickers, and which (because it is a farmworkers’ union) has no access at all to the government labor relations bureaucracy. Somehow, they have survived. Somehow, they have won — again. . . . Fellow workers, the C.I.W.’s ongoing series of inspiring victories for Florida farmworkers are both an inspiration and a reminder. We should never forget the power of creative extremism and wildcat unionism — a power that needs no government, no ballot boxes, no political bosses, no Officially Recognized labor bureaucrats, no lawyers, and no Changeling political parties. It’s the power that fellow worker Joe Ettor reminded us all of, as he and his fellow workers struggled to a hard-won victory in the great Bread and Roses textile strike of 1912, when he said:

If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognize their own solidarity. They have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. The workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists. As long as the workers keep their hands in their pockets, the capitalists cannot put theirs there. With passive resistance, with the workers absolutely refusing to move, lying absolutely silent, they are more powerful than all the weapons and instruments that the other side has for attack.

Yes, we can do it—ourselves. And we will.

— Charles Johnson, Victory to the Farmworkers!, Rad Geek People’s Daily, December 2, 2008.

It’s great to see CIW’s radical presence and their ongoing victories in campaigns that highlight the deep connections between neo-imperialism, military statism, and the deep, artificial, violently-backed inequalities of state capitalism. They know what’s up, and they have been an inspiring example in the kind of creative extremism that gets the goods.

Also.

  1. [1] SOA was rebranded as WHINSEC, the Western Hemphisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, in 2001.

Victory to the farmworkers! Coalition of Immokalee Workers announces that Subway has signed on to the penny-per-pound pass-through agreement

Fellow workers,

The Blockheads of the world may insist that unions survive only through violence, and win only through either the intervention of the State or vigilantism against non-unionized fellow workers. Yet somehow, today, I find this message from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — and a similar e-mail from their allies in the Student/Farmworker Alliance — a southern Florida farmworker’s union that uses nonviolent protest, secondary boycotts, and other creative pressure campaigns on behalf of Florida tomato pickers, and which (because it is a farmworkers’ union) has no access at all to the government labor relations bureaucracy. Somehow, they have survived. Somehow, they have won — again.

From: Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Date: 11:29 AM
To: announce@lists.ciw-online.org
Subject: [CIW News] SUBWAY SIGNS!

Subway, the third largest fast-food chain in the world and the biggest fast-food buyer of Florida tomatoes, reached an agreement this morning with the CIW to help improve wages and working conditions for the workers who pick their tomatoes!

Be sure to visit http://www.ciw-online.org for a photo of the signing and check back soon for more details about this exciting development in the Campaign for Fair Food.

If you are planning a protest as part of the Northeast tour, we ask you to stand down. The tour will still be hitting the road to visit Northeast with news of this newest victory and information on where the Campaign for Fair Food will head next. An updated schedule of events will be posted on the website soon.

Thanks,

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers

For those keeping track at home, here’s the timeline of C.I.W. victories in the penny-per-pound campaign:

  • April 2001: C.I.W. launches the Boycott the Bell campaign against Taco Bell, the first campaign to pressure a fast food restaurant into joining the penny-per-pound pass-through program to improve the piece rate for Florida tomato pickers.

  • March 2005 — 4 years later: The C.I.W. announces victory in the Taco Bell campaign after four years of negotiations, boycotts, protests, and, finally, a hardball campaign to enlist sympathetic student groups to Boot the Bell by pressuring their colleges and high schools to cancel or call off food-service contracts with Taco Bell. Taco Bell now becomes the first fast food provider to voluntarily pass through money to increase farmworkers’ wages. The C.I.W. announces that it will now turn its attention to getting similar agreements from other large fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King.

  • April 2007 — 2 years after that: The C.I.W. announces victory with a penny-per-pound agreement from McDonald’s. It takes two years of negotiations and a low-intensity pressure campaign; just after the C.I.W. announces it is about to escalate with another Taco Bell-style boycott and Truth Tour, McDonald’s signs on for the agreement. The C.I.W. announces that it will organize its next campaign, focusing on Burger King.

  • May 2008 — 1 year after that: The C.I.W. announces victory with a penny-per-pound agreement from Burger King after a year of negotiations, some very dirty dealing by Burger King (most of which came back to haunt them when it was exposed), public protests by the C.I.W. and its allies, and national press attention from journalists who supported the C.I.W. and opposed Burger King’s union busting tactics. 13 months after the C.I.W. began its Burger King campaign, Burger King announces that it will sign on for the penny-per-pound agreement. The C.I.W. announces that it will organize campaigns to get new agreements from fast-food restaurants and grocery stores like Whole Foods, Subway, and Chipotle, which sell themselves as healthy, sustainable businesses.

  • September 2008 — 4 months after that: The C.I.W. announces victory with a penny-per-pound agreement from Whole Foods. The C.I.W. announces that it will turn its attention to escalating their campaigns to win similar agreements from Subway and Chipotle.

  • December 2008 — 3 months after that: After seven months of negotiations, and three months of a low-intensity pressure campaign (focusing on getting supporters to send postcards to Subway’s CEO), the C.I.W. announces plans to launch a multi-city protest Truth Tour in the northeast. Just before the tour begins, Subway agrees to sign on to the penny-per-pound agreement.

If the accelerating trend continues, we can expect the next C.I.W. victory to be announced some time around late January or February. (Except for Whole Foods being two months early, the time it takes for each new victory has consistently followed a geometric decay curve. That can’t last forever, but here’s hoping it holds for a while yet.) In any case, this is a big win, and it’s hardly the end. The C.I.W. is still fighting to get an agreement from Chipotle, and is preparing to organize pressure campaigns for other supermarkets and food service outfits. There’s a lot more yet to come.

Fellow workers, the C.I.W.’s ongoing series of inspiring victories for Florida farmworkers are both an inspiration and a reminder. We should never forget the power of creative extremism and wildcat unionism — a power that needs no government, no ballot boxes, no political bosses, no Officially Recognized labor bureaucrats, no lawyers, and no Changeling political parties. It’s the power that fellow worker Joe Ettor reminded us all of, as he and his fellow workers struggled to a hard-won victory in the great Bread and Roses textile strike of 1912, when he said:

If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognize their own solidarity. They have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. The workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists. As long as the workers keep their hands in their pockets, the capitalists cannot put theirs there. With passive resistance, with the workers absolutely refusing to move, lying absolutely silent, they are more powerful than all the weapons and instruments that the other side has for attack.

Yes, we can do it—ourselves. And we will.

¡La lucha sigue—victory to the farmworkers!

See also:

¡Sí se puede! Coalition of Immokalee Workers announces another victory in penny-per-pound agreement with Whole Foods

Fellow workers,

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based union in Central Florida that has been winning a series of remarkable victories on wages and conditions for Florida farmworkers, with no government recognition and through the creative use of secondary boycotts and other forms wildcat unionism, has just announced another major victory in the struggle. After the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ hard-won victory in the struggle to make Burger King sign on to the penny-per-pound passthrough agreement, here’s what C.I.W. organizer Lucas Benitez had to say about the future of the campaign:

Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Social responsibility in this country’s food industry is inevitable, and though the exploitation of Florida’s farmworkers remains unconscionable today, company by company we are building a path toward justice. The next steps are up to those companies that stand before us in the road ahead.

There are companies — like Chipotle in the restaurant world and Whole Foods in the grocery industry — that already make claims to social responsibility yet, when it comes to tomatoes, fall far short of their lofty claims. It is time, now, that those companies live out the true meaning of their marketers’ words.

And there are companies — like Subway and WalMart — that, by the sheer volume of their purchases, profit like few others from the pernicious poverty of workers in Florida’s fields. They, too, must step up now. After eight years of this campaign — and the very public commitment of the three largest fast-food companies in the world to the principles of Fair Food — they can no longer claim ignorance of the problem nor can they say that the solution is not possible.

So to all of you who have marched with us, organized petition drives with us, prayed with us, and struggled with us, today is a day to celebrate this hard-fought victory. Tomorrow, with renewed energy and purpose, we begin our work again to make respect for fundamental human rights in Florida’s tomato fields truly universal.

— Lucas Benitez, quoted in Coalition of Immokalee Workers Breaking News (2008-06-09): The Road Ahead in the Campaign for Fair Food!

And yesterday, the C.I.W. announced the first victory in these new campaigns: they have won an agreement for Whole Foods to participate in the penny-per-pound campaign, and to begin crafting purchasing standards for labor conditions in the fields.

Whole Foods Market Signs Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to Support Penny-per-Pound Tomato Program in Florida

Company Also Exploring Program to Help Guarantee Ethical Sourcing and Production in the U.S.

AUSTIN, TX (September 9, 2008) – Whole Foods Market, the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Florida-based farm worker organization spearheading the growing Campaign for Fair Food, announced today that the two will work in partnership to help improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers.

According to an agreement signed this week, Whole Foods Market will support the CIW’s penny-per-pound approach for tomatoes purchased from Florida, with the goal of passing these additional funds on to the harvesters.

With this agreement, the Campaign for Fair Food has again broken new ground, said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. This is not only our first agreement in the supermarket industry but, in working with Whole Foods Market, we have the opportunity to really raise the bar to establish and ensure modern day labor standards and conditions in Florida.

We commend the CIW for their advocacy on behalf of these workers, said Karen Christensen, Global Produce Coordinator for Whole Foods Market. After carefully evaluating the situation in Florida, we felt that an agreement of this nature was in line with our core values and was in the best interest of the workers.

Additionally, Whole Foods Market is exploring the creation of a domestic purchasing program to help guarantee transparent, ethical and responsible sourcing and production, using the company’s existing Whole Trade Guarantee program as a model. Whole Trade Guarantee, a third-party verified program, ensures that producers and laborers in developing countries get an equitable price for their goods in a safe and healthy working environment. The goal is to purchase Florida tomatoes from growers that will implement a similar program. We are especially excited about working with the CIW to develop this domestic Whole Trade-type program, said Christensen.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers Press Release (2008-09-09): Whole Foods Market Signs Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to Support Penny-per-Pound Tomato Program in Florida

This is a big win, and it’s hardly the end. The C.I.W. is still fighting to get an agreement Chipotle; there’s a lot more yet to come.

Fellow workers, the C.I.W.’s series of inspiring victories for creative extremism and wildcat unionism are both an inspiration and a reminder. We should never forget that the workers have more power standing with our hands in our pockets than all the wealth and weapons of the plutocrats and politicians. Yes, we can do it—ourselves. And we will.

¡La lucha siguevictory to the farmworkers!

See also:

Whiteness studies 103: Ethnic food and authenticity

Here’s some remarks from an apparent California leftist (progressive, whatever) that I noticed at Davis Wiki while looking up some unrelated information on Chipotle’s corporate history.

The quest for authentic ethnic food is a noble one in this day and age of capitalistic homogenation. Once the corporations get ahold of a a food category, they subvert it to be as palletable (bland) as possible so people in the midwest will eat it.

Because, you see, once people in the Midwest eat something, it’s not authentic ethnic food anymore. You’ve got to remember that white people in the Midwest (Poles, Germans, Swedes, Irish, Scots, English, etc.) don’t have an authentic ethnicity; they are far too bland for all that. Only spicy, colorful people have ethnicities, let alone authentic ethnic food.

See also:

¡Chipotle, escucha: estamos en la lucha!

Fellow workers,

Here is what Coalition of Immokalee Workers organizer Lucas Benitez had to say at a press conference celebrating the C.I.W.’s remarkable victory in the Burger King penny-per-pound passthrough campaign:

Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Social responsibility in this country’s food industry is inevitable, and though the exploitation of Florida’s farmworkers remains unconscionable today, company by company we are building a path toward justice. The next steps are up to those companies that stand before us in the road ahead.

There are companies — like Chipotle in the restaurant world and Whole Foods in the grocery industry — that already make claims to social responsibility yet, when it comes to tomatoes, fall far short of their lofty claims. It is time, now, that those companies live out the true meaning of their marketers’ words.

And there are companies — like Subway and WalMart — that, by the sheer volume of their purchases, profit like few others from the pernicious poverty of workers in Florida’s fields. They, too, must step up now. After eight years of this campaign — and the very public commitment of the three largest fast-food companies in the world to the principles of Fair Food — they can no longer claim ignorance of the problem nor can they say that the solution is not possible.

So to all of you who have marched with us, organized petition drives with us, prayed with us, and struggled with us, today is a day to celebrate this hard-fought victory. Tomorrow, with renewed energy and purpose, we begin our work again to make respect for fundamental human rights in Florida’s tomato fields truly universal.

— Lucas Benitez, quoted in Coalition of Immokalee Workers Breaking News (2008-06-09): The Road Ahead in the Campaign for Fair Food!

The C.I.W. and the Student-Farmworker Alliance are taking the fight to Chipotle, a corporation supposedly priding itself on food with integrity, with whom they have repeatedly tried to meet for negotiations, but who responded by claiming that they would investigate (ah, investigation; cf. suggestions #3 and #6), and, in the meantime, would suspend buying from Florida growers (!), rather than simply taking direct action, as they easily could, to raise Florida tomato-pickers piece rate by passing through the extra penny per pound. In April, C.I.W. and SFA organized protests at Chipotle headquarters in Denver. The C.I.W. has released a one page letter that you can print and deliver to the manager of your local Chipotle restaurants. I’m not a fan of the complaints of being excluded from the normal regime of federal labor regulation on wages, conditions, and organizing; the denial of that bureaucratic crutch and shackle is precisely what has freed the C.I.W. to use the kind of fight-to-win tactics that they are using, and to win the impressive victories that they have won. Other than that regrettable cap-doffing to the State labor bureaucracy, however, it’s clear, to the point, and offers a quick and easy opportunity for you (yes, you) to get involved in the beginnings of what’s sure to emerge as another creative, powerful, and ultimately victorious bottom-up, decentralized campaign of agitation and radical labor solidarity. Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Chipotle Manager,

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been presented with the opportunity to foster real social responsibility in its tomato supply chain by working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization of farmworkers that has been internationally recognized for its work defending basic human rights. Instead, Chipotle claims to have suspended purchases of Florida tomatoes while it unilaterally investigates already well-documented human rights abuses in Florida’s fields.

The supposed need for an investigation of the human rights crisis in Florida’s fields today is mystifying. According to readily available Department of Labor statistics, tomato pickers in Florida face deplorable conditions, including:

  • Sub-poverty wages — Tomato pickers make, on average, $10,000/year;
  • No raise in nearly 30 years — Pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate (roughly 45 cents per 32 lb. bucket) today as they were in 1980. At today’s rate, workers have to pick nearly 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day;
  • Denial of fundamental labor rights — Farmworkers in Florida have no right to overtime pay, even when working 60-70 hour weeks, and no right to organize or bargain collectively.

Even worse, numerous modern-day slavery rings, in which workers are held against their will and forced to work through violence or threats of violence, continue to operate in the fields. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has assisted the Department of Justice in uncovering, investigating, and successfully prosecuting 5 such cases — involving more than 1,000 workers — since 1997.

The three largest fast-food companies in the world have recognized these dehumanizing conditions and moved to address them, giving workers new hope for meaningful reform in the nation’s agricultural industry. In 2005, after a 4-year national consumer boycott, Yum Brands (parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and others) reached an historic agreement with the CIW to directly improve wages and working conditions in its tomato suppliers’ operations by paying a penny more per pound for its tomatoes and working with the CIW to implement an enforceable code of conduct to protect farmworkers’ rights. McDonald’s and Burger King followed suit in 2007 and 2008, respectively, reaching agreements with the CIW that met and expanded upon the Yum! Brands accord. All three fast-food leaders have recognized the fact that their high volume purchases of tomatoes give them the leverage they need to demand more humane working conditions in their suppliers’ fields.

Chipotle however, has remained indifferent to the deplorable conditions faced by workers in its tomato supply chain. Nearly two years have passed since Chipotle launched its investigation and many questions now beg to be answered. Where are the results of Chipotle’s inquiry into Florida’s farm labor conditions? Where has Chipotle been purchasing tomatoes in the meantime, and how do workers fare in those fields? Is Chipotle actually supplying its East Coast restaurants with tomatoes from Mexico (the only other viable option to Florida tomatoes during nearly half the year), despite the immense increase in the cost and carbon footprint of Chipotle’s food that would result from such a decision? Or is Chipotle still in fact purchasing Florida tomatoes, despite its claims to have suspended purchases from Florida? Are transparency and human rights not a part of Chipotle’s definition of Integrity?

Please contact Chipotle Corporate Headquarters in Denver and let them know that you and your customers want them to join with Yum, McDonald’s and Burger King as leaders in true corporate social responsibility by:

  • Paying a penny more per pound for the tomatoes that Chipotle purchases and ensuring that this increase is passed along to tomato pickers in the form of increased wages; and

  • Working with the CIW to implement an enforceable code of conduct to ensure fair and safe working conditions for farmworkers in Chipotle’s tomato supply chain.

Thank you.

— Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Dear Chipotle Manager

Print yourself out a copy and deliver it to your local Chipotle to explain why this issue will affect your burrito-purchasing decisions in the future.

More action alerts and a flyer about Chipotle that you can hang locally are promised soon. Keep an eye out for it: this should get interesting, and there’s likely to be a lot more to come.

Victory to the farmworkers!

See also: