From channeling Willie Nelson to highlight the plight of small farmers to taking big steps by choosing grass-fed meat, there's a lot to like about the rapidly growing fast food giant Chipotle (including the ease of ordering meat- and dairy-free meals of your own design). But, according to labor rights activists, there's a rather large elephant in the room, and it's tomato-shaped.
Despite its active support of factory farm reform, Chipotle is being singled out for its refusal to sign up to the Campaign for Fair Food—an initiative by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) aiming to combat the worst cases of labor abuse on American tomato plantations which has won over support from corporate giants including McDonalds and Trader Joe's.
From a pay increase funded through a penny-a-pound price premium paid by participating buyers (like McDonalds); through a zero tolerance for child labor and slavery; to more robust systems for reporting and investigating worker complaints, this is hardly the stuff of radical revolution. So it will be interesting to see whether mounting pressure from activists results in a shift in Chipotle's position.
The controversy recently escalated into an interesting exchange on Twitter when the company's communications Director Chris Arnold found himself put on the spot at the Edible Institute 2012 conference:
Unfortunately for Chipotle, the last two contributors to that exchange were Daniel and Mirra of the Perennial Plate—whose videos on everything from the sustainability of mullet to trapping and killing feral pigs have garnered a huge online following.
Their latest video explores why agreements like CIW's Fair Food Pledge matter. I guess it's one more reason to buy local and in season. (Mirra also notes in her blog post about Chipotle's tomato problem that the tomatoes are picked green and gassed to get them ripe.)