After years of high-profile acrimony, Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers made peace Thursday at the chain’s Denver headquarters.
By signing the Fair Food agreement, Chipotle becomes the 11th major corporation to join the program, forged by the coalition.
The pact improves working conditions for the people who pick tomatoes in Florida, where much of the nation’s fresh tomato crop grows. Those harvesters have long been excluded from workplace rights others take for granted because of New Deal-era laws that shut out farmworkers and servants. The Fair Food program seeks to even things up.
The Fair Food Program enforces a strict code of conduct that includes health and safety guarantees, a cooperative complaint resolution system, worker-to-worker education and a raise that could mean an increase from about $10,000 to about $17,000 a year.
That raise comes from a penny-per-pound premium paid not by growers, but by the growers' customers: corporate tomato buyers. Those include the world’s major fast-food companies, institutional food services, specialty grocers Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and now, Chipotle.
“With this agreement, we are laying down a foundation upon which we all — workers, growers, and Chipotle — can build a stronger Florida tomato industry for the future,” said coalition member Gerardo Reyes in a statement.
Founded in 1993, the chain has more than 1,000 restaurants nationwide, but just one outlet in Southwest Florida: at the Mercato in Naples.
“Chipotle has an unmatched track record driving positive change in the nation's food supply and is continuously working to find better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use — sources that produce food in ways that demonstrate respect for the land, farm animals, and the people involved,” Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle, said in a release. “We believe that this agreement underscores our long-standing commitment to the people who produce the food we serve in our restaurants.”
The coalition’s Reyes agrees. “Today’s news marks a turning point in the sustainable food movement as a whole, whereby, thanks to Chipotle’s leadership, farmworkers are finally recognized as true partners — every bit as vital as farmers, chefs, and restaurants — in bringing ‘good food’ to our tables.”