Coalition of Immokalee Workers

McDonald's Truth Tour 2006:
The Real Rights Tour!



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Every Truth Tour action inevitably includes some flyering. That's the way -- person to person -- we spread the word of the abuses in Florida's fields among the very people who consume the fast-food we are fighting to make Fair Food.

But not every action provides such a tremendous opportunity for our youngest allies to talk to kids just like them about the sweatshop conditions behind the food they eat. The West Leg crew's visit to Madison, WI, did just that, as we hooked up with some great allies who helped us take our message directly to the people of "Madtown" (they really do call it that...).

We started the day with a presentation at the University of Wisconsin, where some slightly older kids heard from workers -- most around the same age as the UW students -- about the conditions in the fields, the principles established in the Taco Bell boycott victory, and the steps McDonald's has taken that threaten to undermine the fragile boycott gains.

Rolando Sales, speaking above, told the students that, "For years, we have been under the table when decisions about our lives have been made. With the boycott victory, we have finally fought our way to a place at the table. Now, McDonald's and its suppliers want to push us back under the table again, but we won't go without a fight."

And fight we did. From the classroom we headed out to the streets of Madison, where the West Leg crew was joined by a fine crowd of allies for a remarkably spirited action at a local McD's.

SEIU, a recent endorser of the Alliance for Fair Food, was there...

... As was MEChA, a long-time CIW friend and ally who just endorsed the campaign at their national convention...

... And the fine folks at "Just Coffee," the Madison Fair Trade coffee institution that takes the politics of fair trade -- not just the marketing -- very seriously. [But speaking of marketing... Just Coffee has a fine blend complete with a CIW label that you can check out by clicking here. One dollar from every bag sold goes to the CIW to help move our Fair Food campaign closer to victory.]

With all these great allies, the rally quickly grew into yet another powerful show of support for living wages and real rights in the fields.

Enough said...

And, of course, the men in khakis made their obligatory appearance, but try as they might to spirit a bus load of little ones out of the restaurant and into their awaiting bus while avoiding communication with the protesters and their message outside...

... they and their neatly pressed pants were no match for our own Bodhi Miller (not the Olympic skier, but a young man from Madison with an Olympic-sized heart, wearing the gray ski cap), who deftly seized on the opportunity and distributed flyers to all the kids as they made the way to the bus. It never cesases to amaze how open children are to thinking critically about the world around them, while it takes a Herculean effort to awaken most adults from the slumber brought on by the dull compulsion of every day life.

Huh?... What's Chipotle got to do with a McDonald's protest. How peaceful it looks, with its cheery open door...

Uh oh, that woman's carrying a CIW banner... must be a stray from the McD's protest up the street...

What the...? Why would a McDonald's protest pick up and plop itself down in front of a Chipotle?

Well, it's simple really. Chipotle is part of the McDonald's family, actually. Until very recently, McD's owned 92% of Chipotle and a short while ago sold about 30% of its shares in an initial public offering. McD's retains a 67% ownership interest and an 87% voting interest.

But while McDonald's seems to have a philosophy of social responsibility shaped more by PR concerns than by human rights or real respect for labor, Chipotle seems to understand the importance of full rights and respect in its supply chain... for farm animals.

Here's an excerpt from Chipotle's website "manifesto"(their word, not ours...), in which the company declares in no uncertain terms its intention to "revolutionize the way America grows and gathers its food." It is entitled, "Food with Integrity" (found at www.chipotle.com):

"Food with Integrity means working back along the food chain. It means going beyond distributors to discover how the vegetables are grown, how the pigs, cows, and chickens are raised... Its importance has grown as we we have grown. And make no mistake, growth can be good. Our size helps us influence the decisions of our suppliers. And it lets us shoulder our way into the consciousness of the American eating public... Our size means we can change for the better the way more people eat... It means new and higher expectations from all of us about what we consume every day."

So, Chipotle seems to get the idea of social responsibility (recognizing its market power and its duty to use that power for good), but there's one thing that doesn't quite make sense to us: Throughout the entire manifesto, not once does Chipotle founder Steve Ells mention labor, or the conditions under which people are laboring to harvest its produce.

According to the manifesto, for example, Chipotle pledges to only buy meat from pigs raised in "deeply bedded pens, so they are free to run, roam, root, and socialize." Yet workers who pick tomatoes in this country still have no right themselves to freedom of association (not to mention a fair wage or overtime pay...).

Seems that Chipotle thinks that while there is much to be done to improve the conditions of farm animals -- and that Chipotle has both the means and the duty to help improve those conditions -- those who gather our food are not their concern and can fend perfectly well for themselves.

Something of a contradiction there, huh? And that contradiction is what led the picket to turn the corner and move down the street from McDonald's to Chipotle. Funny thing, there weren't any guys in khaki waiting for us there... yet.

More from Madison at night soon to come!

More Pics:
Click here to see the East Leg report!
Click here to see the Central Leg report!