Last week, leaders of the food justice movement — including Eric Schlosser, Raj Patel, Frances Moore Lappe, and Robert Kenner, producer and director of the new documentary Food, Inc. — sent a strongly-worded letter to Chipotle demanding that they “work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as a true partner in the protection of farmworkers’ rights.”

The letter comes in the wake of a recent breakthrough for the Campaign for Fair Food — Whole Foods’ announcement that two of Florida’s leading organic producers, Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms, will implement the company’s agreement with the CIW, including the penny-per-pound wage increase and a strict code of conduct.

For decades, Florida’s farmworkers have faced terrible abuses and brutal exploitation. Workers earn sub-poverty wages for toiling 60 to 70 hours per week in season, and some have even been chained to poles, locked inside trucks, beaten, and robbed of their pay.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has made great organizing strides and has succeeded in convincing numerous commercial giants, including both Burger King and Taco Bell, to increase wages, benefits and observe a strict set of guidelines outlining workplace safety rules.

Chipotle, however, the country’s fastest-growing fast food chain, has resisted efforts by farm-workers demanding a lasting commitment to ending the brutal exploitation in Florida’s fields. As the letter says, in part:

“We realize that Chipotle has announced that it’s paying an extra penny per pound for tomatoes, but we have to ask: What has Chipotle done since that announcement to identify and cultivate growers who are willing to raise their labor standards and pass the penny along to their workers? Your company has shown admirable leadership in working with – and incubating – meat suppliers willing to meet your higher standards. But your failure to do that same hard work in the Florida tomato industry – together with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) – threatens to render your announcement an empty gesture aimed more at public relations damage control than an effort to make real change.”

You can support the call for real change on the part of Chipotle by adding your name to the letter to the company’s CEO Steve Ells demanding “food with integrity” and an end to the human rights crisis in Florida’s tomato fields.

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