One of the main challenges of today’s world is fair trade, especially fair trade of food. We have all heard of the dreary conditions in which farmers toil to provide us with cheap food every day. Is cheap food sustainable and what does cheap food actually mean in terms of fair trade? Have you ever thought of what that cheap food comes at the expense of?
Worldwatch Institute recently posted a very touching yet absolutely realistic video on fair trade and forced labor in Mexico – yeah, the same farmers that provide America with veggies and fruits. Just like the lady in the video, we all go to the supermarkets to do our weekly shopping and rarely (if ever) think about where all that food came from. What is the actual price of food in terms of labour cost and fair trade? Can we continue to claim ignorance of the inhumane working conditions under which the produce the supermarkets and restaurants offer might have been harvested?
For the past four years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) – a Florida-based organization fighting for better conditions for farm labourers – has been building partnerships with major fast food establishments and grocery stores, such as Whole Foods. CIW asks these large corporations to use their purchasing power to incentivize fair treatment of farm labourers by only purchasing produce from suppliers that can prove they treat their labourers fairly as part of their fair trade initiatives. Chipotle, a growing American tex-mex chain, has been approached by CIW numerous times with invitations to join the growing list of large corporations taking a stand against unfair treatment of farm workers. And Chipotle has turned down every one.
At first glance, the popular fast-food chain would seem like an obvious partner for CIW. It had a tie-in with the 2009 release of the film, Food INC, sponsoring free screenings of the film and distributing promotional material at all of its restaurant locations. Chipotle’s CEO, Steve Ells will be starring in the upcoming NBC reality series America’s Next Great Restaurant and has received significant press surrounding his supposed goal to provide good fast food to American consumers with “integrity of ingredients.” The restaurant’s website prominently features descriptions of the “naturally raised animals” that provide the meat for its menu. The meat Chipotle serves is from animals that are “raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones and allowed to display their natural tendencies.” Does it sound like fair trade to you?
Yet, Chipotle refuses to work with CIW and other organizations that promote the rights of farm workers. For four years, the company has declined invitations to join the other large corporations working with CIW to promote fair labour practices on America’s farms.
While Chipotle refuses to throw its financial weight towards the improvement of working conditions for farm labourers, CIW is providing plenty of opportunities for consumers to take action. Check out their website to find out how to send a postcard to the corporate headquarters of Chipotle or others and other corporations that refuse to take a stand for fair trade and to learn more about the organizations that deserve your patronage – as well as the ones that do not.
It all boils down to one thing – we are all drops but together we make up the ocean! Your voice counts! Give it for Fair Trade today!