“CHIPOCRISY TOUR” 2008

September 30 – October 12 

Days 7 & 8: Lawrence, KS & 
St. Louis, MO


No rest for the weary!

After wrapping up three action-filled days in Denver, the Tour crew headed back east on a beeline straight for the next stop and the next Chipotle protest, this time in Lawrence, Kansas, hosted by our old friends from Lawrence Fair Food.

Meanwhile, allies off the Tour route stepped up their own work in support of the Chipotle campaign. Leading human rights organizations within theAlliance for Fair Food (AFF) have been busy putting the finishing touches on a position paper regarding the issue of human rights and Chipotle’s claim to being a “sustainable food leader” in the fast-food industry. Here’s an excerpt from the soon to be released report, entitled, “Challenging Chipocrisy: “Food With Integrity” Must Respect Farmworkers’ Human Rights”:

“…Food production is not sustainable if it is undertaken at the cost of degrading basic human rights by exploiting the labor of farmworkers.

Even companies that have expressed a commitment to sustainable food, such as Chipotle, often buy produce from growers who have subcontracted labor under conditions clearly violating these basic human rights norms.  Increasingly, however, as evidenced by Whole Foods recent agreement to join in partnership with CIW, the sustainable food community is speaking and acting out against benefiting from these human rights violations by receiving cheap fresh produce picked at the expense of human dignity.  More importantly, the sustainable food community, and in particular large food purchasers like Whole Foods, as well as the consumers themselves, are recognizing that they are the ones that have the power to change this abusive system.”


The AFF report continues:

“… As Larry Cox, the Executive Director of Amnesty International, has stated: “No major social or economic system may be permitted to function at the expense of basic human rights; the food system is no exception.  There are viable solutions in agriculture that ensure the human rights of farmworkers, while also better protecting sustainable and healthy food production.”

“In order to live up to its commitment to serve sustainable food, Chipotle must join those, such as CIW, who are seeking to implement viable solution in agriculture to protect farmworkers’ human rights.”

“If Chipotle wants to maintain its image as a leader in bringing sustainable food to the mainstream market… it needs to take responsibility for pursuing sustainability throughout its supply chain, including in regards to the human beings who pick the produce integral to its menu.

“In the meantime, the great distance between Chipotle’s stated ideals as presented in its marketing campaigns and its behavior can only serve as fodder for tragic irony, or “Chipocrisy.” 

“For example, every Chipotle store features original artwork by Bruce Gueswel which is inspired by the artistic style of the ancient Mayans.  At the same time, the farmworkers represented by the CIW include a large number of actual Mayan Indians. Yet, Chipotle seems more concerned with preserving the remnants of Mayan artistic influence than in protecting the rights of rights of actual Mayans, whose ancestors’ artwork adds an “authentic” touch to Chipotle’s stores.” (emphasis added)

Check back next week to see the AFF position paper in its entirety…


But first, let’s head back to Kansas… On this crisp Fall day in Lawrence, the Tour crew enjoyed a series of high school and university presentations, during the course of which, some of the CIW andStudent/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) representatives had the chance to rest for a moment and share lunch with students at the University of Kansas (above), leading to an interesting conversation about campus foodservice providers.

Like most colleges and universities, KU outsources its dining services to one of a handful of powerful corporations (such as Aramark, Compass and Sodexho) who dominate the industry. Over the past years, students have taken on these companies over a variety of issues – including the rights of campus workers to organize and earn fair wages and more accessibility to sustainable food options. As major purchasers of tomatoes (and often the franchisees of the on-campus versions of national fast-food chains), these companies also fall within the scope of the Campaign for Fair Food, and will certainly be hearing from our allies with theStudent/Farmworker Alliance in the weeks and months to come.

And, of course, no Tour stop would be complete without an action.

In Lawrence, the action began with a march across KU campus (pictured in the first frame of this update, above left) to this Chipotle restaurant on bustling Massachusetts Ave., where protesters approached customers enjoying their meals with a bit of information about the truth behind the tomatoes they were eating. Here a customer puts down his burrito and picks up a flyer to learn more what companies like Chipotle would never tell him about the history of the food they sell in their restaurants…


… while protesters gave out over 100 free burritos produced with local, sweat-free ingredients. The burritos – and the message – were well-received by all, and folks eagerly lined up to sign the letter to the manager.

After a few hours of downtime to catch up with our Lawrence Fair Food friends, the Tour crew hit the road once again, destination: St. Louis. Upon their early arrival, they wasted no time getting down to business, making their way to this Chipotle restaurant. There, they were joined by several members of the National Farm Worker Ministry – longtime and indispensable supporters of the CIW and and Campaign for Fair Food.


Then something happened that you don’t see every day… During the St. Louis protest, CIW members and their allies were joined by students from a Social Movements course from nearby Washington University. An impromptu class ensued right there on the sidewalk – students and workers in a direct dialogue, in the middle of a direct action! Makes a lot of sense when you think about it… what better way to learn about social movements than to actually be a part of one? Once again the fast-food industry’s prized “target market” — 18 to 24 year-olds — takes a moment to learn more about the exploitation behind the food they eat… and takes action to end that exploitation.


Wrapping up yet another successful action, the Tour crew bid farewell to the friends from NFWM as the clock (and the next destination) beckoned. Next stop: Louisville!
   

Days 5 & 6: Denver, CO


Day 5 of the Chipocrisy Tour actually began in the waning hours of Day 4, as crew members got to work making this banner to serve as a backdrop for the encampment set to begin bright and early the next morning in front of Chipotle headquarters.


Then, as morning broke in the Mile-High City, the crew packed the vans with signs and art and supplies for a vigil at the doorstep of Chipotle’s corporate headquarters… 


… where they would remain day… 

… and night, for the next 30 hours, bearing witness to the message that, unlike the farm animals in Chipotle’s supply chain, farmworkers have a voice of their own, and the workers who pick Chipotle’s tomatoes will not allow themselves to be marginalized any longer.

During the course of the day, CIW members and allies made their presence known throughout Denver, raising consumer awareness by passing out flyers in front of this restaurant downtown… 

… and giving presentation after presentation (12 in all!) in a number of universities not only in Denver, but nearby Boulder, as well.


Back at the headquarters, CIW members and allies requested to meet with a company representative… and were greeted by our old friend Tim Spong, Chipotle’s VP of Loss Prevention.

The delegation spoke with Mr. Spong for a few minutes before inviting him to take a look at some of the more than 85,000 signatures from consumers across the country to the CIW’s National Petition to End Sweatshops and Slavery in the Fields (including over 4,000 signatures from members of the farmworker community in Immokalee – shown stretched across the length of Chipotle’s headquarters in the following photo).


Mr. Spong’s response to the petitions? To tell encampment members that Chipotle executives had “made a decision” about how best to address the abuses faced by farmworkers in its tomato supply chain – demonstrating once again that the companystill doesn’t get it.

Chipotle, as it has shown time and again over the past several years, can’t possibly know what’s best for workers in Florida’s fields. The company doesn’t have any idea about the conditions workers face there every day, and they never will as long as they rely on the farm owners for information (or try to investigate conditions themselves, as farm supervisors are well practiced at the art of intimidation). Until they finally decide to work in true partnership with the people who know the reality of those abuses best — the workers themselves — Chipotle’s efforts to end labor abuses where their tomatoes are picked will remain, at best, a public relations answer to a human rights crisis.


And so the encampment continued. Later that evening, a large group of local allies both old (members of the Denver, CO community who have been actively calling on Chipotle to truly live up to their promise of “Food with Integrity” for the last two years) and new (students who were moved into joining the action by hearing from tour members earlier that same day) came together for a candlelight vigil…


…complete with music provided by Revs. Julie Todd (left) and Anne Dunlap (right), members of one of Denver’s newest congregations, Liberation Community Church, and a powerful reflection from Rev. Michael Hidalgo, lead pastor of Denver Community Church, who invoked the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Woe to those who make injust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed.”

to call upon Chipotle to “cease with its unjust policies,
reconsider its oppressive ways, and own up to its own claim of food with integrity by including justice in that definition of integrity.”


And, as the temperature continued to fall, the Tour crew (bundled up in scarves, gloves and hats generously loaned by their Denver allies) settled in to continue the vigil on through the night. While the cold concrete didn’t exactly make for the most comfortable of sleeping conditions…

… the crew (and adorable allies!) were up bright and early the next morning, refreshed and ready for another day.

Much like the previous day, presentations throughout the city took encampment members away from the action, but a core group was always present to keep vigil …

Until finally, later that day, the encampment was brought to a moving close by Denver’s own Aztec dance group, Grupo Tlaloc.

And though the crew bid farewell to Denver – and to their wonderful allies (including their gracious host and indefatigable organizer for these past three days, Robert)…


… their message will remain with Chipotle — and be carried on by the members of Denver Fair Food — until the “sustainable food leader” is truly ready to make real its promise of “Food with Integrity” by working together with farmworkers to build a transparent, verifiable system to end farmworker exploitation.

Next up: Lawrence, KS!

   

Day 4: Denver, CO


No cross-country trip could be complete without some good old-fashioned kitsch. Here the Chipocrisy Tour crew takes a break in “the Sunflower State,” paying a visit to Goodland, Kansas’ claim to fame: the world’s largest easel.


Giant easels aside, the drive from Wichita to Denver did provide the crew with an unexpected opportunity for more meaningful reflection, as the rural landscape was briefly interrupted by giant wind turbines, reminders of the growing shift toward environmental sustainability.

The windmills reminded us as well that Chipotle had recently announced plans to construct a “green” restaurant in Illinois. The restaurant will feature its own on-site wind turbine to provide some of the facility’s electrical power.

Chipotle is to be commended for its environmental leadership and commitment to “sustainable design.” It’s commitment to human rights, on the other hand, appears to be little more than empty spin (couldn’t resist that)…

On the serious side, as there can be no food on America’s tables without farmworkers, there can be no true sustainability without full human rights, a simple truth that no amount of eye-catching sustainable design can ever change.


Upon their arrival in Denver, the crew quickly got to work, spreading the word about the Campaign for Fair Food to several faith congregations throughout the city – from an address to the entire congregation of the 6th Avenue United Church of Christ…

… to a more intimate presentation with this youth group at the First Universalist Church.

Then it was time to once again take our message to the streets! But this was no ordinary Chipotle action…

… today the people of Denver took their message of discontent to the very first Chipotle restaurant, opened here at the corner of Evans and Gilpin — a stone’s throw from the University of Denver campus — in 1993.


To kick things off, some Tour members brushed off their acting skills to participate in this entertaining street theater, first performed by members of Denver Fair Food in front of Chipotle headquarters earlier this year.

In this photo we see the conclusion of the theater: a CIW member celebrating victory after a tug-of-war with Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells over a single penny.


The ever-attentive CIW media crew was busy documenting the scene, to be later shared with the community back in Immokalee.

After the theater, protesters got down to business, leaving no doubt as to who was responsible for the food found on the tables inside. After nearly an hour of high-spirited picketing, it was time again for a delegation to meet the management.


This time, however, the reception was a bit chillier than was the case in Wichita (scroll down to read more on the talk with the manager there). The manager on this day was decidedly more firm in his insistence that Chipotle was already doing all it should.

But from friction can come light, and indeed this discussion shed a good deal more light on the reasons for Chipotle’s refusal to enter into a real partnership with the CIW.

When asked whether the company does all its business based on handshakes — as Chipotle insists is the best it can do when it comes to farmworkers — or whether it requires signed agreements with its farm suppliers, the Chipotle representative let us in on how Chipotle views the difference between farmworkers calling for human rights and farmers selling produce, saying a formal agreement isn’t necessary in our case because “We don’t buy tomatoes from the CIW.”

Again: “We don’t buy tomatoes from the CIW.”

Apparently, from Chipotle’s point of view, ensuring the full respect of human rights in its supply chain doesn’t rise to the same level as ensuring that the tomatoes it buys are the right size and consistency…

Or maybe Chipotle thinks they can go it alone on farmworker rights, since they’ve done such a bang-up job to this point…

Or maybe, for whatever reason, Chipotle’s just more comfortable working in respectful partnership with family farmers than with farmworkers…


Whatever the case may be, the crew eventually wrapped up the protest and, later that evening, joined a group of close Denver and Boulder-based allies to share a meal, debrief on the day’s developments and nail down the final details for the beginning of tomorrow’s encampment at Chipotle headquarters.

Everyone got into the action – even 8-month old Mixtli, shown here revising some of the meeting notes.

Check back for the update for tomorrow, which promises to be one of the most powerful days of the tour as workers from Immokalee begin a 30-hour vigil in front of Chipotle.

   

Days 1 & 2: Austin, TX 
(scroll down for the Day 3 update from Wichita)


The Tour crew took Austin, Texas, by storm this week, as the first stop on the 2008 Chipocrisy Tour combined a powerful action at a local Chipotle restaurant (above) with two days of outreach to area student and community groups, topping it all off with… 


… a little bit of the old CIW-style partying, with music from Austin’s own son jarocho group, Son Armado, providing the soundtrack for a joyful celebration with local allies of the CIW’s most recent victory, the groundbreaking agreement with Austin-based Whole Foods!


The road to Austin began, of course, 1,300 miles away in Immokalee. On Tuesday morning, before dawn, the Tour crew loaded the vans with materials and luggage – including this mountain of sleeping bags and the slumbering tour member underneath – for the long journey ahead…

… a journey that got just a little bit longer before we had even left the state of Florida, as one of our two vans broke down outside of Tallahassee, on the side of I-10. Not the most propitious start to the two-week tour, but, hey, a mini-tour isn’t a mini-tour until you’ve had your first vehicle problem… 

Requisite travel snafus aside, the crew persevered and arrived in Austin just in time to meet with leaders from the Proyecto Defensa Laboral (PDL), a local organization struggling for racial and economic justice for low-wage workers in Austin.


PDL members shared how builders at the top of the construction industry turn a blind eye to abuses committed by their contractors against workers… a story all too familiar to CIW members, who shared the history of their own struggle and discussed the evolution of the Campaign for Food, a campaign founded on the link between the multi-billion dollar companies at the top of the food industry – like Chipotle – who leverage their purchasing power to demand the lowest possible prices for their produce, and the exploitation of farmworkers at the bottom of the industry, whose poverty wages are a direct result of those artificially low prices.


We also visited old friends at the studios of KPWR – Austin’s grassroots web-based radio project – where the Tour crew (many of whom moonlight as deejays on CIW’s own low-power station, Radio Conciencia) learned more about internet radio.


Then it was off to the University of Texas – a stalwart in the Boot the Bell campaign – where CIW greeted a new generation of UT students with a quick quiz. 

See if you can identify what is missing from this statement by Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells:

“We decided long ago that we didn’t want Chipotle’s success to be tied to the exploitation of animals, farmers, or the environment.”


Both the UT students and this group of middle and high schoolers from the Khabele School in Austin passed the quiz with flying colors:

… Mr. Ells, you forgot farmworkers.


The simple fact is that no fruits or vegetables get from the dirt of our fields to the restaurants, markets, and kitchen tables across our country, without farmworkers, men and women who are among the most exploited workers in our country.

That has been the truth behind our food since the country was born, and it remains true today. For a company like Chipotle — a company that aggressively markets itself as a sustainable food leader, and a company that has profited from farmworker exploitation for years — to be blind to that reality for so long can only be described as hypocrisy (well, there may be one other word that could capture it… it’s on the tip of my tongue…)…


The Chipocrisy (oh yeah, that’s the word!…) Tour continued as Austinites joined the Tour crew on UT campus at the feet of a man who spent his life fighting to educate consumers about the story behind their food — United Farm Workers leader César Chávez. The crew and gathering crowd drew inspiration from his memory as they prepared to continue the struggle for farm labor rights…

… with a march to the nearby Chipotle restaurant, quite conveniently located right next to campus.


Our message was clear: The time has come for Chipotle to join other industry leaders in entering into an agreement with the CIW to pay 1 penny more per pound for the tomatoes that it purchases to increase farmworker wages, stagnant now for 30 years…

… to work together with the CIW to develop and implement an enforceable, human-rights based code of conduct in its supply chain to reverse decades of inhumane treatment of workers in the agricultural industry…


… and to ensure that workers themselves are involved in the development, verification and monitoring of all aspects of this agreement.

Farmworker participation is essential to the CIW agreements with other fast-food leaders because, unlike the animals that Chipotle has sought to protect, farmworkers have their own voice and must be genuine partners in change if Chipotle is to be serious about its commitment to “revolutionize the way America grows and gathers its food”…


As the spirited action wrapped up, a delegation of CIW members and local allies wanted to be sure to deliver their message directly to the store’s manager. In an interesting turn of events, however, they ended up meeting not only with that store manager…


… but also with one of Chipotle’s regional managers, Bobby Shaw, (pictured, above center), who conveniently happened to be in the area.

Mr. Shaw presented us with Chipotle’s newest response to the campaign (see the home page for a detailed update on their latest move and the CIW’s response).

The Tour crew thanked Mr. Shaw for the news, and let him know that the protests would continue until Chipotle had actually met the standards already established by other fast-food leaders.


Here’s a brief summary of Chipotle’s responses to the campaign to date (to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi):

First they ignored us, then they fought us, and now they are pretending that we have won.

After denying the need for change in Florida’s fields and refusing to even meet with us for nearly three years, Chipotle’s newest strategy is to claim that they have now unilaterally “met our demands,” all the while refusing to recognize farmworkers as human beings and true partners in the food industry. Recognition of farmworkers as essential partners in the changes we seek is in fact central to all of our demands, indeed central to the very notion of human rights.

And so, the 2008 Chipocrisy Tour continues, next stop Wichita, Kansas. Check back tomorrow for an update from Wichita, and, in the meantime, don’t miss this segment on the Chipotle protest from Austin Public Radio (KUT).

   

Day 3: Wichita, KS


Day three of the Tour saw the crew roll into Wichita, Kansas, where this little guy brought his own personal style to a crowd of local supporters for a spirited twilight Chipotle action.


The activities began with a half-mile march down Wichita’s main commercial drag to a nearby Chipotle restaurant…

… along a route that provided an opportunity for a little dramatic foreshadowing of protests to come (Subway, don’t think we’ve forgotten about you…)!

But today’s focus was the “sustainable food leader” of the fast-food industry, and upon arrival marchers wasted no time making their message known.

As always, the CIW led the action…

… and was joined by Wichitans from all walks of life: from students at nearby Wichita State University…

… to members of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Alliance for Fair Food endorsers who just celebrated 35 years of advancing social, political and economic justice for Latinos throughout the Americas…

… right down to this friendly pup named Bella, who sported a t-shirt declaring her support for fair food.

Then it was time to see what this particular Chipotle would have to say for itself. Demonstrators added their final signatures to a letter to the manager…


… and a delegation made its way inside for a chat. Unlike his Austin counterpart, however, thisChipotle manager was surprisingly receptive to the crew’s description of the human rights crisis in Florida’s fields and the opportunity Chipotle has been presented with to partner with farmworkers to finally end that crisis.

After alerting the delegation that he had been told to expect us, the manager repeated Chipotle’s current stance on the campaign (see the home page for a detailed update on their latest move and the CIW’s response). But he also listened intently as CIW members explained the simple truth that farmworkers — as the very human beings suffering poverty wages and human rights abuses in the fields — must play an integral role in designing, implementing, and monitoring any realistic effort to improve farm labor conditions… and that a letter like Chipotle’s, written for the public, is not the same as an agreement like those between other fast-food leaders and the CIW, forged to give structure to a partnership.


As the sun set on yet another day of the Chipocrisy tour, Chipotle had a lot of questions to answer.


After the action wrapped up, the tour crew & participants made their way to University Methodist Church, where they enjoyed a delicious meal generously donated by Kansas House Representative Delia García (left). Rep. Garcia is also the owner of Connie’s Mexico Café and herself proud daughter of migrant farmworkers. They were also treated generous hospitality of our good friend Axl (right), who helped organize the stop in Wichita, and his family, who hosted several tour members in their home.

Check back soon for an update as the tour rolls into Chipotle’s backyard: Denver!

, , , ,