Demonstrators Protest for Fair Food practices at Chipotle’s Across U.S.

Jul 24, 2012

Activists in the Fair Food movement will protest in front of Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants across the country Wednesday. The Coalition of Immokalee (CIW) workers say the chain is not living up to a 2009 agreement. But, the nationwide purveyor of burritos and other Mexican-style food says that’s not the case.

CIW has gained international recognition for getting fast food vendors, including the behemoth McDonald’s, to agree to buy Florida tomatoes only from growers who pay laborers an extra a penny a pound and provide safe working conditions.

In 2009, Chipotle promised to pay the extra penny – but did not sign the CIW’s Fair Food agreement. CIW supporter Karen Dwyer said 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’s stance is it wants to go it alone and just buy tomatoes from growers that have already signed onto this agreement,” she said. “But, the problem with that is it’s not a credible contractual agreement that can be verified.”

Since 2009, about 90 percent of Florida’s tomato growers have signed the CIW’s Fair Food agreement. Given the company’s penny-a-pound pledge -- and growers’ commitments -- Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold questions the motive behind the CIW’s protests in front of its restaurants planned for Wednesday.

“Growers are bound by the terms of the Fair Food Agreement by virtue of their entering into it and CIW has the authority to audit those growers practices -- so it’s the same result. And I think it begs the question, what matters more to the CIW – helping the farmworkers or hides on the wall?” he said.

Protesters will be in front of the Chipotle in Naples Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.. Protests are also planned in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. and several other cities.