Thursday, September 24, 2009

Celebrating a victory while continuing to call on Chipotle...

East Coast Growers and Packers -- one of Florida's largest tomato growers -- has agreed to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and food industry leaders to implement the CIW'S Fair Food agreements, including the penny-per-pound raise to harvesters, supply chain transparency, and a stringent code of conduct! This is a major victory in the Campaign for Fair Food and for all of us in Denver who have been working in solidarity with the CIW. In many ways it represents the culmination of the over 15 years of struggle by the CIW -- what may very well be a turning point in Florida farm labor power relations.

This major breakthrough was made possible by the growing purchasing power that the CIW in alliance with consumers nationwide have marshaled behind the principles of the Campaign for Fair Food -- the more than 65,000 restaurants across the country represented by Yum! Brands, McDonalds, Burger King, and Subway that are now committed to buying from growers that work with the CIW to implement the penny per pound wage increase, code of conduct, and farmworker participation in the monitoring system. Ultimately it was the collective purchasing power of those food industry giants that broke the two-year old logjam created by the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange's resistance to the CIW's campaign.Furthermore, thanks to the CIW's Fair Food agreements, these companies will be working in partnership with the farmworkers of the CIW in a transparent manner in order to ensure that the farmworkers are receiving the wage increase and that the code of conduct is being followed.

Chipotle, however...

Last week, before the agreement with East Coast could be made public by the CIW or any of the other parties involved, Chipotle issued a press release claiming the agreement as the product of its labors alone.

Chipotle, rather than make a transparent, formal commitment to work with the CIW to implement a real code of conduct and the penny per pound wage increase, has seized instead on this latest news in an effort to score cheap public relations points. Indeed the only thing transparent about Chipotle's surprise press release was the brazenness of their decision to take sole credit for something it couldn't have accomplished on its own in a million years.

Just do the math.

Total market share of companies in formal agreements with the CIW, agreements that commit those companies to buying from any participating grower: over 65,000 restaurants.

Chipotle: 830

While Chipotle may have been involved in a multi-party process that brought about the East Coast decision, there is no disputing the fact that Chipotle was -- by far -- the smallest piece of the puzzle. And yet, Chipotle was the only company to jump out alone and shout from the highest mountain, "Look what I did!"

Looks like someone might have been a little too eager to wash over the public relations mess left behind by the "Food, Inc." fiasco. Unfortunately, no amount of grandstanding can substitute for real reform.

To be clear: Chipotle still has not signed an agreement with the CIW to pay the penny per pound and has not agreed to work with them to implement a code of conduct which would guarantee farmworkers the ability to participate in the protection of their own rights. There is no way for the CIW to verify that Chipotle is even paying the penny per pound, as there is no agreement on regular reporting or transparency.

East Coast's agreement to work with the CIW is something we should celebrate -- while we continue to call on Chipotle to do the right thing. (See the CIW website for all the latest. See the Denver Fair Food blog for background on the Chipotle campaign.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reflections of Solidarity-Seeing that of God in our Neighbors

Week Five Reflection
Daniel Short is a Quaker and former Director of the Human Rights Program at the American Friends Service Committee.

In this week's reflection, excerpted from Seeing that of God in our Neighbors, Danielle explores barriers to seeing that of God in immigrants and how the call to See that of God in Our Neighbors contributes to our own spiritual development.

To read Danielle Short's Seeing that of God in our Neighbors, go to the shrine and light your candle. No registration is necessary to leave a candle or a comment.

Last Week's Reflection

Migration of the Spirit
by Randle Loeb

All of the earliest examples of human collaboration are reckoned by wandering clans that stood on the precipice of death, clinging to the barest thread of survival. Birth and death have always been intricately overlaid and intertwined. There is no escape from the migration of humanity for survival across the rim of the world to the edge of the aboriginal center of the universe. We came out of Africa. Madagascar was the center of the land mass of the world in the beginning and from the floating islands of teeming life Homus Erectus clawed for a place that was safe and abundant to live.

Our claim to places and strategies which lay waste to other competing clans has always been a futile enterprise. There is no thinking in any culture that can make any rhyme or reason of owning land or, for that matter, anything. All wealth belongs inevitably to the earth. We have achieved the rendering of the world into parcels and places, naming the earth and planting a symbol to lay claim to this as my own.

But if one looks at the artificial boundaries, the citadels, the castles, the walls that have been created to hold people in or out it is clear Robert Frost’s reminder, that, “good fences do not make good neighbors,” is exactly right. It is in fact the opposite that is our only means for avoiding extinction. There is no greater imperative than that we share wealth and redistribute this economy everywhere, while at the same time leveling the playing field. Women and men throughout the world are leaving their families today for the purpose of earning remittances and sending this resource home to build the economy in emerging nations. There is one world economy and our interdependence is the only means we have for survival.

When we think about people immigrating from abroad it’s important we realize that we are all related and interrelated from the initial exodus across the continents, 10,000 miles for the purpose of survival, while clinging to a precarious existence. We cannot reign over the earth, the seas, the air and the fire of the world’s inner core. We must harness a will to coexist as a sea of seven billion faces, where half the world will be new children. We must determine how we will rebuild the world for our lives to move forward along the destiny written by the infinite wisdom of creative instinct. We must decide what we will do to share the resources of the earth and harness our technologies to prepare for the new generation and say, “Mr. President, tear down this wall.”
In many nations of the world long ago they understood that limiting people’s rights to passage is a death sentence. In reality, the migration and balance of where people live is not up to anyone. The planning of the migration of people has already changed the major political-social order. We are not the benefactors of the earth’s wealth. The earth still retains rights and always will be our mainstay because we cannot own anything and we cannot possess anyone.

Instead of bickering over whether a child has a right to citizenship, or a right to treatment, or a right to an education, we would be far wiser to learn from these pioneers and voyagers how to better maintain and live together in harmony. Let us hope that when my great grand children are walking around that the earth has opened its gaping mouth to feed all of the young. We can put an end to pestilence, to avarice, to senseless brutality and famine in one fell swoop by expanding our awareness and realizing that all are welcome here, now and forever, no matter what.