Denver Direct: Farmworkers protest Denver Chipotle festival

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Farmworkers protest Denver Chipotle festival

Adapted from background provided by Denver Fair Food Committee

By Dave Felice
No ‘chipocrisy’ in our ‘hood!
     Denver-based Chipotle still refuses to sign a Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW).  The Coalition says the agreement would uphold human rights standards, fair wages and a voice for farmworkers who pick Chipotle’s tomatoes:  “Without signing a Fair Food Agreement, there is no transparency, worker participation, or, most of all, no binding commitment to farmworker rights by Chipotle.”
     Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are coming to Denver from the coalition base in Florida to educate the community about their struggle and encourage people to get involved. 
Food “celebration” targeted
     On Saturday October 6th, Chipotle Mexican Grill will hold its “Cultivate Festival” in City Park.  The day-long festival – “bringing together food, farmers, chefs, artisans, thought leaders, and musicians” – is described as a celebration of Chipotle’s self-proclaimed commitment to food with integrity.”  
     The Cultivate festivals are part of a marketing effort by Chipotle to distance itself from the image of a traditional fast-food company and to appeal to the country’s growing “good food” movement.
     According to the Denver Fair Food Committee, Chipotle’s behavior is contrary to the company’s claim to be the fast-food leader in social accountability.  The Denver restaurant chain has for many years now refused to sign a Fair Food Agreement, an agreement four other leading fast-food companies signed long ago.
     CIW’s Fair Food Program is said to be the only social accountability program that combines worker-to-worker education, a complaint mechanism with protection against retaliation, and a third-party monitoring organization that investigates and resolves complaints.  In addition, the Fair Food Agreement requires regular field and farm office audits to measure compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct.
     The Coalition of Immokalee Workers credits the growing Fair Food Program with “transforming conditions and wages in the fields which for so long fostered poverty and human rights abuses for farmworkers.”
Market forces prevail
     According to CIW, the Fair Food Program is enforced through market consequences if a farm fails to comply with the Code.  The market consequences are required by the Fair Food Agreements signed by participating retail food corporations, in which the companies agree to curtail purchases from growers unwilling to comply with the Code.
     CIW says Chipotle’s refusal to sign an agreement means “it is under no obligation, much less verifiable obligation, to stop buying tomatoes from growers where workers’ rights are being violated.  Chipotle insists that it only purchases tomatoes from growers complying with Fair Food Standards, but such claims, lacking the transparency, monitoring and binding commitment of a Fair Food Agreement, amount to little more than a cynical attempt to white wash its image.”
Farmworkers seek commitment
     On October 6, the CIW and allies plan to be present at the Cultivate Festival in Denver to show Chipotle that promoting itself as sustainable is not enough; the company must include workers’ rights, and workers themselves, in its vision of a food system that claims to be based on integrity.  CIW declares “we will not settle for public relations games and half measures when it comes to human rights.”
Contact [email protected] for more information