Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Food With Integrity and Work With Dignity

Tell McDonald's and Chipotle to Support Fair Wages for Farm Workers

Farm workers who pick tomatoes for McDonald's hamburgers and Chipotle's burritos earn about 45 cents for every 32-pound container of tomatoes they pick, a subpoverty wage that has remained stagnant for almost 30 years. Although Taco Bell signed an agreement last year with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay an additional one cent per pound for tomatoes it purchases, McDonald's and Chipotle have refused to sign a similar agreement to raise wages in the fields. Tell McDonald's and Chipotle to support fair wages for farm workers and sign the agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers now.

What's At Stake?

Tell McDonald's and Chipotle to Support Fair Wages for Farm Workers
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), based in Immokalee, Fla., is a membership-led organization of agricultural workers. Florida is the leading producer of fresh tomatoes sold across the country to restaurants and grocery chains, and CIW members harvest these tomatoes.

In March 2005, the CIW reached a groundbreaking agreement with Yum! Brands, ending a four-year national boycott of one of its subsidiary companies, Taco Bell. The agreement calls for Taco Bell to pay farm workers an extra penny per pound for tomatoes it purchases. It also ensures farm workers, through the CIW, a place at the table in the design and enforcement of a stronger supplier code of conduct, creating important new avenues for farm workers to participate in the protection of their own labor rights, as well as transparency in Taco Bell's tomato supply chain.

For more than a year, the CIW has called on other fast-food companies to work with them to advance these precedents within their own supply chains. But McDonald's has responded to the coalition's invitation of partnership by working with their suppliers to resist and reverse the advances of improved wages, worker participation, and transparency that were achieved in the CIW-Yum! Brands agreement.

Chipotle Mexican Grill was, until recently, a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonald's. Following a public offering of the company in January 2006, McDonald's now owns a controlling interest in Chipotle.

Chipotle takes a strongly activist stance toward guaranteeing humane conditions in its supply chain—for farm animals. The company's "manifesto, "titled "Food With Integrity," discusses its mission to "revolutionize the way America grows and gathers its food" by "working back along the food chain" to encourage production of healthy vegetables and humane raising of animals by farmers.

Chipotle recognizes that its volume purchasing of vegetables and meat place it in a position to demand the humane treatment of animals, yet its manifesto says nothing about the conditions under which people are laboring to harvest its produce.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has described farm workers as a labor force "in acute economic distress." Tomato pickers earn about 45 cents for every 32-pound container of tomatoes they pick, working from dawn to dusk without the right to overtime pay. The 45-cent piece rate has not changed in nearly 30 years. Annual income is extremely low. The DOL reports that farm workers earn an average of $7,500 to $10,000 per year. Of course, the vast majority of farm workers receive no benefits—no health insurance, no sick leave, and no vacation pay.

CIW is calling on Chipotle to expand its own "Food With Integrity" mission to include "Work With Dignity" for farm workers who harvest its tomatoes by partnering with the coalition to ensure improved wages and the participation of farm workers in the protection and advancement of their own rights. Further, CIW is calling on Chipotle to influence McDonald's to join Yum! Brands in working with the coalition for these important human rights advances in the agri-food industry.

For more information on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, go to

Go to this link to take action

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