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Why Won't Chipotle Sign the Fair Food Agreement?

Some simple changes would give Florida tomato pickers a living wage and humane conditions and give you a burrito to be proud of.

Here at GOOD, we love the burrito. Efficient and highly portable, cheap and tasty, the tortilla-wrapped meal holds a special place in our bellies. We've also long favorably covered burrito supplier Chipotle and its "Food With Integrity" philosophy. But we're currently in a moment of putting fast food chains under the ethical microscope though, and couldn't let this slide.

First, the positives. No other restaurant chain in the United States buys as much naturally raised meat as Chipotle and that demand has been a boon to the farmers raising hormone-free pork. Last year the company pledged to double its use of local produce to 10 million pounds. But the humble tomato, that building block of salsas, is one item that proves difficult to source locally, at least during the the fall and spring, when nearly all U.S.-produced tomatoes come from fields of Florida.

Take a closer look at the tomato and you'll find an example of how Chipotle, despite its admirable advances, could be doing better. In Florida, farm workers must pick 2.5 tons of tomatoes every day to earn the equivalent of minimum wage and most don't earn more than $12,000 in a year. This pay scale hasn't changed much at all in more than thirty years. These farmworkers have no right to benefits or overtime, nor do they have the right to organize to improve their conditions. Working conditions on some farms have been called slavery.

The Coalition of Imokalee Workers has pressured Chipotle since 2006 to do right by their tomato-picking farmworkers, and really make good on the promise of "Food With Integrity." The CIW has never been able to bring Chipotle to the table to sign their legally binding Fair Food Agreement. Even Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Burger King have signed it. Jezra Thompson over at Civil Eats points out that the demands aren't unreasonable:

Basic asks include an increase of one penny per pound of tomatoes picked, respect for workers, business transparency, and an enforced code of conduct for agricultural suppliers. These are not drastic asks, rather a human dignity not previously offered and now demanded for by a worker-run movement.


Chipotle's customers have shown that eaters will pay more for a better, more thoughtfully produced and sustainable burrito—when the company transitioned to Niman Ranch pork and raised the price of their carnitas burrito, they actually increased sales. So why not use tomatoes with integrity and bump up the price again? You can urge Chipotle CEO and Founder Steve Ells to sign the Fair Food Agreement by sending him a message here. Or if you prefer to engage in a more personal style of activism, you can hand deliver this letter to the manager of your local Chipotle.

Image (cc) Flickr user Atomic Taco

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