12 January 2009

Monsanto: Unnatural Profits

We have been trying to round up the more well-known corps important to the anti-globalization (anti-neoliberalism) movement at the outset of this blog in order to cover the basics, so to speak. We've reviewed the accusations and issues surrounding Coca-Cola, Nestle, Chevron and others. Now it's time to look at one more corp at the center of controversy and scandal: the Monsanto Company. It is impossible, as with the other corps reviewed so far, to devote our entire attention to every issue surrounding this monolithic corporation, so, as with Coke and Nestle and the others, we will simpy highlight some of the issues and point in directions throughout the imbedded links and further reading to look for more evidence yourself. As a consumer of any degree, however little you may participate, it is your responsibility to know as much as possible about what you are consuming and what your dollars are supporting. You are responsible for corporate activities. Your compliance is consent and consent is the root of all political/social/economic power:

"A ruler's power is dependent upon the availability of its several sources. This availability is determined by the degree of obedience and cooperation given by the subjects. Such obedience and cooperation are, however, not inevitable, and despite inducements, pressures, and even sanctions, obedience remains essentially voluntary. Therefore, all government is based upon consent." (Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action)

Monsanto is huge and has interests and activities across the spectrum of agricultural, political, entertainment, and environmental areas of interest. For the purpose of this review we will focus only on the more obvious aspects: Monsanto's development and marketing of genetically engineered seed, their use of bovine growth hormones and the impact on milk, and the impact of the corp on third world countries, in this example, India.

The problem of genetically modified plants goes beyond the health dangers of consuming these new and bizarre hybrids, and has a great environmental impact as well. For example, if fish genes and strawberry genes are mixed in order to produce a brand new, unnatural combination (the fishberry?), it is then essentially released into the environment through farming. Because genes are selected not because of their benefit to humanity on the basis of taste, longevity, flavor or nutrition, and are instead engineered for higher profits (increased yield and growth, for instance), a threat is posed of newly genetically modified plants overcoming natural plants and potentially eliminating them as an invasive species does to indiginous species of plants. Though they are not healthier they may be more invasive. This means that, though the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may not yet be fully understood in regards to health and environmental impact, they are still effecting the environment in an irreversible way--all in the name of profit! Monsanto Company earns billions upon billions of dollars a year.

As if this were not enough, for the first time in United States history seeds (see seed laws), those things essentially necessary for the survival of all human beings, were patented for a corporation:

"Monsanto developed G.M. seeds that would resist its own herbicide, Roundup, offering farmers a convenient way to spray fields with weed killer without affecting crops. Monsanto then patented the seeds. For nearly all of its history the United States Patent and Trademark Office had refused to grant patents on seeds, viewing them as life-forms with too many variables to be patented. “It’s not like describing a widget,” says Joseph Mendelson III, the legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which has tracked Monsanto’s activities in rural America for years.

Indeed not. But in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, turned seeds into widgets, laying the groundwork for a handful of corporations to begin taking control of the world’s food supply. In its decision, the court extended patent law to cover “a live human-made microorganism.” In this case, the organism wasn’t even a seed. Rather, it was a Pseudomonas bacterium developed by a General Electric scientist to clean up oil spills. But the precedent was set, and Monsanto took advantage of it. Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents, more than any other company, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data." (Vanity Fair, Monsanto's Harvest of Fear: Politics & Power)

Legal terrorism follows as Monsanto litigates over and over against farmers, independent businesses and anyone who they claim violated their patent rights. Farmers are forced to sign agreements with the corp not to replant seeds from a previous harvest, instead forced to buy new seeds. In addition to this, Monsanto has developed "terminator seeds," producing a line of sterile plants, forcing farmers to repeatedly purchase seeds from the corp. On top of health risks and environmenta risks of GMOs, Monsanto must also wreak terror and anxiety upon the minds of farmers and workers.

Bovine growth hormone (Bovine somatotropin) is a hot issue with arguments from either side. Bovine somatotropin is produced using recombinant DNA to synthetically produce recombinant bovine growth hormone (or rBGH). Monsanto markets rBGH under the trade name Posilac. Monsanto and some scientists claim that the amounts of rBGH in milk are harmless, whereas advocacy groups, affinity groups, consumers and other scientists claim that this is not actually true and that the health risks of rBGH are not fully understood. rBGH increases milk production in cows by about 11%-16%, making the hormone profitable, but also has health consequences on the cows themselves, including a 25% increase in the risk of mastisis, a 40% reduction in fertility, and a 55% increase in developing lameness. Farmers use antibiotics to treat these problems, which are then consumed by humans, increasing antibiotic-resistant bacteria and undermining the efficiency of antibiotic use for humans because of an increased tolerance. Insulin-like growth factor 1 has also been tied to rBGH, effecting childhood growth and anabolic effects in adults. Unless a brand of milk is organic or specifically mentions NOT using rBGH or other antibiotics/pesticides/growth hormones, then that milk is a risk.

Forcing consumption, terrorism, and health/environmental risks are apparantly not enough for Monsanto. They also seem to have to force children in India to pollinate heavily pesticide-laden cotten in fields in India:

"Working in cottonseed fields also has important health implications for the children involved. The use of pesticides is very high in commercial cotton cultivation (accounting for nearly 55% of the total pesticide consumption in India). Children working in the cottonseed fields are directly exposed to poisonous pesticides like Endosulphan, Monocrotophos, Cypermethrin and Mythomyl for prolonged periods. When doing cross-pollination work they stand among cotton plants which reach up to their shoulders and bend over them as the children identify flowers ready for pollination. In ordinary cotton production, in order to avoid exposure to pesticides, no work is done on the days when pesticides are sprayed. But in cottonseed cultivation cross-pollination work is carried out even during the days when pesticides are sprayed in the fields. Hence compared to workers in ordinary cotton fields, the children working in the cottonseed fields are exposed more directly to pesticides and are exposed for longer periods of time. Their exposure to Endosulphan, which is an organochlorine, affects their nervous system and the symptoms are precisely what children working in cottonseed fields often complain of: headaches, weakness, disorientation, convulsions and respiratory problems. In the absence of long term monitoring of the health of children, there is no way of assessing the permanent damage such exposure has on the health of these children." (Child Labour and Trans-National Seed Companies in Hybrid Cotton Seed Production in Andhra Pradesh, Nature of work and terms and condition of employment)

These children are paid less than half a dollar per day, and are victims of globalization which sets its own capitalists rules and forces foreign families, governments and children to play along at the risk of being starved-out by world superpowers like governments and corporations. And children are not the only victims in India, farmers have been commiting suicide by the thousands across the nation due to being lured by corps like Cargill and Monsanto into buy genetically modified seeds--a gamble that, for them, did not pay off. As their debt increased (due to tactics used by corps like "terminator seeds") to these corps, so did their indentured servitude, leading to mental anguish so great that suicide has been seen as the only option to escape the grasp of corporations like Monsanto. New, powerful, foreign interests like Monsanto, forever after profit, have moved into all places of the world in order to exploit the poor and a world economic system which favors the powerful. These are exactly the types of things that people like Vandana Shiva in India are attempting to struggle against by forming organic seed banks across the country.

It is important to note that corporations like Cargill or Monsanto frequently use greenwashing tactics in order to spin their products or services with a falsely "environmentally friendly" message, exploiting the natural desire of the consumer to help the environment as well as the recent fad of environmentalism.

These are just some of the controversies surrounding Monsanto. The list goes on and on. The difficulty with Monsanto, however, is knowing what they have touched and what they haven't, as a corporation, in order to boycott them. They are vast, just like Coca-Cola or Nestle. It is therefore important for us to familiarize ourselves with Monsanto brands like these, as well as understand the nature of GMOs and hormones that corps like Monsanto sell and how to effectively boycott them for the sake of our own health as well as shutting down corps like Cargill and Monsanto. This requires economic noncooperation with farmers who use rBGH or grow with genetically modified seeds. The only effective way to do this is to buy organic food, locally grown if possible.

Further reading:
article: Farmer's Suicides (ZNet)
article: Child Labor in India (Child Labour and Trans-National Seed Companies in Hybrid Cotton Seed Production in Andhra Pradesh)
article: Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear (Vanity Fair)
article: A meta-analysis review of the effects of recombinant bovine somatotropin (Canadian Journal of Vetrinarian Research)
Organic Consumers Association
The True Food Network
Seeds of Deception
Monsanto Watch
List of Seed Companies Tied to Monsanto and GMOs
Non-GMO Shopping Guide

Buy locally at farmer's markets. Buy organic/hormone/pesticide free. Buy less!: grow your own organic food.

02 January 2009

Nestle: Child Slavery & Water Wars

There is a side to Nestle Corporation that isn't so sweet. The corporation is primarily accused of human rights violations like child labor, environmental violations involving natural water supplies, and aggressive baby formula advertisements in third world countries. Nestle is the largest corporation in the United States and controls one-third of the entire U.S. market. It therefore uniquely represents the United States-style capitalism (corporatocracy), exposing inherent tendencies and value systems which run contrary to human welfare.
Nestle is another corp, like Coca-Cola, which owns almost innumerable other companies and outlets, so it is difficult to discuss all of the violations in a single entry. Like the Coca-Cola entry below, the purpose here is to highlight just a few of the more obvious violations in order to illuminate the general mode of operation of this magacorporation.
One of the most obvious cases of Nestle's human rights violations in conjunction with so-called "Free Trade" is that of child labor:

"The problem of illegal and forced child labor is rampant in the chocolate industry, because more than 40% of the world's cocoa supply comes from the Ivory Coast, a country that the US State Department estimates had approximately 109,000 child laborers working in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms. In 2001, Save the Children Canada reported that 15,000 children between 9 and 12 years old, many from impoverished Mali, had been tricked or sold into slavery on West African cocoa farms, many for just $30 each.

Nestle, the third largest buyer of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, is well aware of the tragically unjust labor practices taking place on the farms with which it continues to do business. Nestle and other chocolate manufacturers agreed to end the use of abusive and forced child labor on cocoa farms by July 1, 2005, but they failed to do so." (International Labor Rights Forum, The 14 Worst Corporate Evildoers)

Since so much of the chocolate consumed in the world comes from the Ivory Coast, and since the governments along that area of Africa permit child slavery, and since so-called "free trade" allows corps like Nestle to deal directly with those governments, American profiteers are able to take advantage of human slavery around the world. Video: Blood Chocolate. The only way to stop a corporation from doing this is to stop purchasing anything that they make and to make their actions widely known.

Nestle Waters is also accused of extracting water from communities around the world and inside the United States. These communities include Fryeburge, ME, McCloud, CA, and Mecosta County, MI in the US and Aberfoyle, Ontario to name a few. Accusations involving Nestle Waters include:
"Because Nestle’s predatory tactics in rural communities divide small towns and pit residents against each other.

Because Nestle reaps huge profits from the water they extract from rural communities - which are left to deal with the damage to watersheds, increases in pollution and the loss of their quiet rural lifestyle

Because Nestle has a pattern of bludgeoning small communities and opponents with lawsuits and interfering in local elections to gain control of local water supplies.

Because the environmental consequences of bottled water on our atmosphere, watersheds and landfills are simply too big to ignore.

Because no international corporation should have the right to pilfer the public’s water for profit." (
Stop Nestle Waters)
Nestle Purina sold thousands of pounds of contaminated animal feed in Venezuela. The corporation broke local law by selling genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in Nesquik in China and Nestle is one of the largest international advocates for GMOs. International Labor Unions around the world have accused Nestle of various worker's rights violations. Nestle stands accused of outsourcing and price-fixing.

Perhaps most outrageous, however, is the Nestle corp's shameless and misleading advertisement of baby formula in third world countries. It has been proven that Nestle made the claims in numerous, aggressive advertisement campaigns that their baby formula was healthier than breast milk, though this is known to be untrue:
"Risks stem from the intrinsic problems of use of a non human substance as a food for the human infant, the risks of contamination of the product itself with chemical contaminants or pathogenic bacteria or the risks of incorrect or unsafe making up or storage and use of formula in bottles. The risks of formula are much greater when used in the developing world with about 1.5 million deaths a year attributable to lack of breastfeeding. However deaths also occur in the developed world especially among premature infants who are at increased risk of nectrotising enterocholitis when fed with formula." (Marketing of Formula)
Nestle appears to have only one interest: profits at the cost of all other human considerations. It is only possible to touch on some of the evidence against Nestle, though any degree of further investigation will reveal just how far American capitalism in general, and Nestle in particular, is willing to go. It is imperative that not only Nestle, but all of the other products and companies owned by this megacorporation are boycotted by every human being interested in the well being of other human beings around the world.

Further reading:
article: Slave Chocolate? (Organic Consumer's Association)
article: Pet Food And Pet Care Products in Venezuela (Euromonitor International)
article: Milking It (The Guardian)

The violations and brands owned by Nestle are too far-reaching to specifically focus on alternatives. Print out the above list of Nestle brands and keep it with you, along with your other boycott lists, when you shop.

Coca-Cola: Murder for Profit

The accusations against Coca-Cola company and its affiliates are so far-reaching that it is impossible and unnecessary to list them all here. The purpose of this entry is only to highlight some of the aspects of both the international campaign against Coca-Cola and some of the accusations brought against the company:

"In the past two years the Coke campaign has grown into the largest anticorporate movement since the campaign against Nike for sweatshop abuses. Around the world, dozens of unions and more than twenty universities have banned Coke from their facilities, while activists have dogged the company from World Cup events in London to the Winter Olympics in Torino. More than just the re-emergence of the corporate boycott, however, the fight against Coke is a leap forward in international cooperation. Coke, with its red-and-white swoosh recognizable everywhere from Beijing to Baghdad, is perhaps the quintessential symbol of the US-dominated global economy. The fight to hold it accountable has, in turn, broadly connected issues across continents to become a truly globalized grassroots movement." (The Nation, The Case Against Coke)

Many people have died at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Columbia. Some of those killed in South America alone are: Avelino Achicanoy (Pasto Plant, 1990), Jose Elaseasar MancoDavid (Carepa Plant, 1994), Luis Enrique Giraldo Arango (Carepa Plant, 1994), Luis Enrique Gomez Garado (Carepa Plant, 1995), Isidro Segundo Gil (Carepa Plant, 1996), Jose Librado Herrera Osorio (Carepa Plant, 1996), Oscar Dario Soto Polo (Monteria Plant, 2001), Adolfo de Jesus Munera Lopez (Baranquilla Plant, 2002). Hundreds of other Coke workers have been tortured, kidnapped and/or illegally detained by violent paramilitaries, often working closely with plant managements. Such actions are not solely the result of local governments or military forces. Coca-Cola itself is directly accused of "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders,” indicating that Coca-Cola had direct involvement with harmful actions in Colombia and other places around the world.

Those workers who have attempted to unionize in third world countries have quickly realized the horrors that can accompany worker solidarity in the face of an international superpower like Coca-Cola and the economic/political alliances that have been forged from so-called International Free Trade:

"The aim of a free trade area is to so reduce barriers to easy exchange that trade can grow as a result of specialisation, division of labour, and most importantly via (the theory and practice of) comparative advantage. The theory of comparative advantage argues that in an unrestricted marketplace (in equilibrium) each source of production will tend to specialize in that activity where it has comparative (rather than absolute) advantage. The theory argues that the net result will be an increase in income and ultimately wealth and well-being for everyone in the free trade area. However the theory refers only to aggregate wealth and says nothing about the distribution of wealth. In fact there may be significant losers, in particular among the recently protected industries with a comparative disadvantage. The proponent of free trade can, however, retort that the gains of the gainers exceed the losses of the losers." (Free Trade area)
It is true that the gains of the "gainers" has far exceeded the losses of the "losers." Unfortunately, in this case (and in many others), the losers are human beings who are being exploited, killed, harassed and oppressed by local governments who seek to be on the gaining side of such agreements. An American corp like Coca-Cola, forever on the search for wider margins of profit, will quickly take advantage of low human rights standards in localities around the world in order to increase their revenue. As third world countries around the world are guiled by the false promise of American wealth, the reverberations are far reaching:

"In India, Coca-Cola is guilty of creating severe water shortages and polluting the groundwater and soil, affecting tens of thousands of farmers. Coca-Cola was also distributing toxic waste to farmers as fertilizer and selling drinks in the Indian market with extremely high levels of pesticides. In Colombia, Coca-Cola is charged with complicity in the murder, torture and intimidation of trade union organizers in Coca-Cola bottling plants." (India Resource Center, Students Campaign to Ban Coca-Cola Products on Campuses)
Coke has also literally stolen the ground water from people around the world in order to fill their non-biodegradable bottles full of free water to sell around the world:

"In India, Coca-Cola destroys local agriculture by privatizing the country's water resources. In Plachimada, Kerala, Coca-Cola extracted 1.5 million liters of deep well water, which they bottled and sold under the names Dasani and BonAqua. The groundwater was severely depleted, affecting thousands of communities with water shortages and destroying agricultural activity. As a result, the remaining water became contaminated with high chloride and bacteria levels, leading to scabs, eye problems, and stomach aches in the local population."(International Labor Rights Forum, The 14 Worst Corporate Evildoers)
Coca-Cola is also accused of being one of the most discriminatory corps in the world, having been sued by 2,000 African-American employees in the United States for racial discrimination.

The accusations against Coca-Cola are absolutely staggering, and I'm certain that those who have stumbled into this website are already well aware. The purpose of this entry is to highlight some points which may come in handy when talking to other people who just can't believe that their favorite, highly acidic and caustic refreshment is killing and oppressing people all across the world.

Further reading:
article: The Case Against Coke (The Nation)
article: Students Campaign to Ban Coca-Cola Products on Campuses (India Resource Center)
article: An Appeal to All Communities: Stop Coca-Cola’s Abuses! (Killer Coke)
article: The 14 Worst Corporate Evildoers (International Labor Rights Forum)
International Labor Rights Forum
Killer Coke
United Students Against Sweatshops
List of Coca-Cola Brands

Just don't drink Coca-Cola or any of the other products owned by the corporation! Don't buy anything that comes in a plastic bottle. Get a Nalgene bottle or a thermos and bring your own non-Coke drinks with you. Familiarize yourself with the wide and crazy world of Coca-Cola products in order not to be duped into supporting slavery, murder and oppression around the world.

Circuit City: Dirty Tricks

While the chief executive of Circuit City makes $716,346 a year, along with a $704,700 bonus last year, $3 million in stock awards and $340,000 in options, employees who put their hard work into the company for years have been fired and told they could be hired back at minimum wage.

"I'm ticked off that they can just come at you from one day to another, no warning, and oh, you're gone," he said. "I dedicated seven years to them. Loyalty gets you nothing." (Mascias, The Washington Post, Circuit City Cuts 3,400 'Overpaid' Workers)

The thousands of employees who lost their means of survival in an economy devastated by corporate greed and selfishness were replaced either by other workers desperate for some pay instead of no pay (at minimum wage) or grudgingly accepted an offer to be taken back on at minimum wage themselves. This came at the expense of their previous pay-scale, their benefits and everything else they had worked for over the years.

Many of the employees who were fired felt that they were let go do to their age. For many the only option was to wait 10 weeks and then reapply for a lower position at minimum wage, as the job market has plummeted due to the year's recession. This is the definition of wage-slavery, where an employee will be forced to accept unethical situations for lack of a better option. Those who were previously working at $10 - $18 an hour suddenly found themselves to accept pay closer to $7 an hour.

In addition to this action (which is being litigated with some benefits being rewarded to those who lost their jobs) the company is guilty of sales techniques that pitted one employee against another, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and pressure:

"Every salesman is ranked by the number of protection plans (or extended warranties) that they sell. At my store all the time we would throw on scratch protection plans to CD’s, since they’re only a buck, most people don’t notice. During the $9.99 CD special days, customers who weren’t aware of the sale were easy prey." (27 Confessions Of A Former Circuit City Worker)
Employees were also encouraged to mislead customers and to pressure customers in numerous ways to buy warranties. This engendered an atmosphere of employees struggling with one another, leading to workplace stress.

As the service/retail job force becomes the only option for many American workers the exploitation of their situation by those who stand to turn a profit increases as well. Circuit City should be boycotted.

Further reading:
blog: 27 Confessions of a Former Circuit City Worker
article: Circuit City Cuts 3,400 'Overpaid' Workers (Washington Post)
article: US: Circuit City fires 3,400 better-paid store workers (World Socialist Website)
article: US: Laid-off Circuit City workers allege age bias in suit (CorpWatch)
article: Circuit City Replaces 3400 'Overpaid' Workers! (Job Destruction Newsletter no. 1665)
Wage Slavery


Purchase electronics from other individuals on either on Ebay or CraigsList. Find local, independently-owned retailers and purchase from them, if necessary. Cut back on the amount of unnecessary electronics you use.

Chevron: Economic Colonialism and Murder

The case against Chevron is rare in that it actually made it into the United States court system:

"Chevron is charged with complicity in activities of the Nigerian military, including the shooting and killing of two protesters on the offshore Parabe drilling platform. At the time of the violent incident, plaintiff Larry Bowoto and other members of Niger Delta region communities were protesting Chevron’s oil operations, which they claimed caused massive environmental and economic damage in the impoverished area. Plaintiffs have filed claims under the federal Alien Tort Statute, as well as for wrongful death, assault and battery."
(The AmLaw Daily,
Trial in Landmark Human Rights Case Against Chevron Begins Today)

Chevron (and Texaco) certainly has deep interests in Nigeria, and the corporation claims that it was only protecting it's oil facilities from threatening protesters. The case is a modern example of the Alien Tort Claims Act, which enables foreigners to file claims against U.S. Corps in the United States.

These are just the latest claims in years of complaints against Chevron and other American oil corps in the Nigerian regions, as the Movement of the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) are another example of claims made against Chevron in the early 1990s. The MOSOP accused Chevron and Shell of polluting their homeland to the point of being unlivable with their oil activities. Since this time there has been continuous claims by indigenous peoples in the Niger Delta region of being mistreated by American oil corps like Chevron.

The environmental impact upon the Nigerian Delta area by oiling companies is undeniable. The careless practices of oil industries like Chevron have contributed to massive environmental impact, limiting the safety and welfare of indigenous peoples living in the area. According to the World Bank most of all of the oil revenue in Nigeria is eaten up by only 1% of the Nigerian population--the government elite. It is because of this that corporations like Chevron are said to have the ability to use the Nigerian military to murder protesters whose only hope is to have a clean and safe environment in which to live or fair working conditions in which to work.

One of the protesters who was a part of the group accused by Chevron of threatening the corporations oil facilities was Larry Bowoto, who still carries the scars of the bullets shot by the Nigerian military accused of working with Chevron. Bowoto, however, vehemently denies any violent activities during the protest, claiming that the protest was peaceful and that he "never expected Chevron to be so brutal."

The activities of Chevron Corp has also been condemned by such groups as Amnesty International, who cite numerous human rights violations in the Nigerian Delta area by oil corps like Chevron.

No price can ever be put upon a human being's life or safety. Oil has devastated environments and cultures around the globe, and though Chevron is but one example, it must be singled out and boycotted nonetheless. American consumers must deny profits to those who wish to draw dividends from human suffering and exploitation.

Further reading:
Amnesty International
article: Amnesty International report of human rights violations perpetrated by Chevron
article: Chevron faces suit over Nigerian violence (San Francisco Chronicle)
article: Blood Oil (Vanity Fair)
Petroleum in Nigeria
article: Trial in Landmark Human Rights Case Against Chevron Begins Today (The AmLaw Daily)

Ride a bike! Ride a bike! Ride a bike! Convert your car into a grease car!

Chipotle: "Food with Integrity" or Slavery?

Chipotle's marketing slogan is "Food with Integrity," and the corporation defines this as:

“Food with Integrity means working back along the food chain. It means going beyond distributors to discover how the vegetables are grown, how the pigs, cows, and chickens are raised… Our size helps us influence the decisions of our suppliers. And lets us shoulder our way into the consciousness of the American eating public…What does all this mean to you? In the short-term it means better-tasting tacos and burritos… Looking forward, it means encouraging growers to pursue humane and healthy practices… It means new and higher expectations from all of us about what we consume every day.”
(Chipotle, "
Our Food with Integrity Manifesto")

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), however, claims that Chipotle's version of "humane" practices is in reality modern day sweatshop labor and slavery in the tomato fields of south Florida. The CIW has continuously prosecuted slavery cases in the state of Florida since 1997, with charges and accusations such as forced labor, imprisonment, rape, inhumane living environments, etc. Though this is the environment surrounding the tomato industry and migrant workers in south Florida, the CIW's main claims against Chipotle are:

In short, we believe that “Work with Dignity” must be an integral part of “Food with Integrity.” But the workers who pick tomatoes for Chipotle today are denied the right to overtime pay, denied the right to organize, and earn sub-poverty annual wages. They receive absolutely none of the traditional employment benefits – no sick leave, no health insurance, no holiday pay, and no retirement plan. It is the contradiction between Chipotle’s vision of “Food with Integrity” – a vision that the company has placed squarely at the heart of its marketing strategy – and the reality of those farm labor conditions that has brought us to ask Chipotle to help us change those conditions. (The CIW responds to claims made by Chipotle)
It is important to realize that, without the above mentioned worker's rights, the conditions for workers in south Florida picking tomatoes for restaurant chains like Chipotle ranges from indentured servitude at best and downright slavery at worst. As a whole the CIW charges the entire south Florida tomato industry with 1) piece rates that haven't changes in 25 yrs, 2) sub-poverty annual wages, 3) no right to overtime, and 4) no right to organize. Chipotle is one of the corporations purchasing tomatoes from this standard of "employment." It is, in fact, the volume-purchasing system itself which seems to be intrinsically connected to the problem:

"Now, these growers are being forced to lower their prices for these specific tomatoes just so the repackers can break even. This eventually will work its way down to the tomato pickers, who may be forced to take a cut... Forcing down the cost of tomatoes, a minor component on the fast-food menu, does little to make the restaurant more profitable. It will go a long way toward harming a loyal group of suppliers and growers and their workers." (“Big fast-food contracts
breaking tomato repackers”

These farmers earn around 45cents for every 42-bucket they fill with tomatoes, and are being exploited by a system which takes advantage of migrant workers with very few options. The working situation for those in the tomato fields of south Florida are beyond miserable and hard for many Americans to understand. For this reason Chipotle and restaurant chains like it that support exploitative labor situations in the name of profit must be boycotted.

The price of a Chipotle burrito is slavery.

For more information regarding slavery in south Florida and actions that can be taken beyond boycotting:
Alliance for Fair Food
Student Farmworker Alliance
article: Chipotle Exploits Farmworkers (elephant)
article: Big fast-food contracts breaking tomato repackers (The Packer)
article: Modern-Day Slavery (Palm Beach Post)
A sample workday for a Florida tomato picker (scroll to bottom)

Purchase tomatoes from local farmer's markets or from grocery stores who participate with Fair Trade policies. Make your own burritos! If possible, grow your own tomatoes and give the extras to your neighbors.

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