Chipotle Agrees to Respect Farmworkers

Chipotle agrees to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' terms for respect in Florida's tomato fields.

By Aura Bogado Oct 05, 2012

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers claimed another victory yesterday when Chipotle agree to sign on to the organization’s Fair Food Program. CIW members–who represent some 4,000 Florida tomato pickers–and their allies held a protest outside of Chipotle’s headquarters in Denver this week. They were planning another protest during the restaurant’s popular Cultivate Festival tomorrow–which touts Chipotle’s "Food with Integrity" slogan.

After six years of refusing to meet with the CIW, Chipotle becomes the 11th corporation to sign on to the agreement–after Trader Joe’s did the same in February. The Fair Food Program is unique in that it doesn’t demand more pay directly to farmworkers. Instead, it asks that end-use corporations like Chipotle pay a price premium for the tomatoes they purchase for their consumers. In turn, the price premium paid by those food retailers to growers ensures higher wages for farmworkers, and a code of conduct that targets harassment in Florida’s fields.

Fast food chains and supermarkets often argue that industries that rely on ever lower prices simply cannot afford to pay a price premium. They add that since they don’t set wages in the fields, they shouldn’t be pressured to raise the amount of money they pay for their tomatoes.

Yet CIW continues to win victories by reminding growers, corporations, and consumers what farmworkers already know: the food chain’s economy is connected, and once food retailers pay pennies more per pound on one end, workers in the field will feel the difference by earning more pay on their end. Aside from a wage increase, the price premium also ensures rules against child labor and modern-day slavery in Florida’s tomato fields.

Nely Rodriguez, a CIW member who has been working in fields in Michigan and Florida for nearly 10 years, told that the agreement is also an important win for Chipotle. In a phone interview this morning, she said that consumers want workers to be treated with respect, and that Chipotle’s signature assures that.

"The agreement is also important because if there are any human rights violations in Florida’s fields, against women being sexually assaulted, for example, Chipotle now has the responsibility to hold the grower to the code of conduct, and stop the misconduct. There are now market consequences for abuse," she added.

The CIW has cancelled this weekend’s action in Denver, and is already preparing for its next victories, with actions planned against Publix, Kroger, Stop and Shop, and Giant supermarkets. Although 11 food retailers have signed on to the Fair Food Program, Rodriguez said there are many more corporations who take advantage of cheap farm labor during the winter tomato harvest.