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Seeking Living Wage and Humane Conditions, Workers Bring Fair Food Struggle to Chipotle

Chipotle, which claims "food with integrity," is under fire by activists working on labor conditions in the nation's tomato fields.

Photo Credit: Lightspring/


AMY GOODMAN: We are here in Denver, Colorado, as we turn to a six-year human rights campaign targeting the fast-food chain Chipotle, which is headquartered here in Denver. The first Chipotle Mexican Grill opened here in 1993 with the goal of serving a healthier version of fast food such as burritos made from sustainable and naturally raised ingredients. The vision grew as the company expanded nationwide and is summed up in its motto, food with integrity, which is promoted in videos like this one.

STEVE ELLS: We really want to celebrate this idea of the nourishing people and feeding them really great food.

STEVE KAHAN: It is about celebrating relationships.

JONATHAN WOODMAN: Celebrating the land.

JUDE BECKER: Engaging in the process.

RICHARD BLAIS: "It’s like, to grow and to sort of like progress each and every day.

JONATHAN WOODMAN: The farmers are the stars here.

TONY MANTUANO: There are farmers and chefs that are working so hard to make sure your food tastes great and it’s raised right.

STEVE KAHAN: Small farmers care about what they do. People know where their food comes from.

NATE APPLEMAN: This is an important [Inaudible] We put all of our emphasis on the ingredients. That is what differentiates us from everyone else.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite Chipotle’s commitment from serving food that is naturally raised with respect for animals the land and the farmers who produce it, the company, so far, has refused to sign a contract that would ensure a living wage and human conditions for workers who pick the tomatoes it purchases. The contract would confirm its commitment to the Fair Food Program, a project led by the Florida based Coalition of Immokalee Workers. On Tuesday, local supporters joined the group for a protest outside Chipotle’s Denver headquarters, calling on it to join other major chains such as McDonald’s and Burger Kind who have signed on to the program. This weekend, they will be targeting a festival in Denver that’s promoted by Chipotle, and features music, food, chefs, and local farmers, but no farm workers. We are pleased, right not, to be joined by one of the farm workers in our studio. Gerardo Reyes-Chavez is a farm worker and organizer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Welcome to  Democracy Now!, it’s good to have you with us. You have come to Denver to do exactly what on [October] 6th?

GERARDO REYES-CHAVEZ: We are here to talk about the reality of farm-workers, and the notion that farm workers, when you are talking about sustainability, in what Chipotle saying is nonexistent. The farmers should be a central part of the conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: Chipotle were not able to join us on the show today, but we did speak with them by phone. I want to play a short interview  Democracy Now! producer Renée Feltz did Tuesday with Chipotle’s Communication Director, Chris Arnold. Renée began by asking Arnold why the company’s refused to sign the Committee Immokalee Workers’ agreement to participate in the Fair Food Program. This was Chipotle’s response.

CHRIS ARNOLD: We’ve always believe that you don’t need to have a contract to do the right thing, and in fact, have a very long track record of driving positive change in the nation’s food supply and done all the things that we have done without having third party contracts. In terms of the transparency of auditing, I would say two things; first of all, they conduct the audits, the CIW or their allies are conducting the audits of growers to determine the practices as it relates to our purchases. We provide records of our Florida tomato purchases to CIW’s auditors so they can see what we’re buying from whom and for how much.

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