Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!
The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.
TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.
Posted January 20, 2011 by Ben Lilliston
Update: Hear an interview with former Chipotle employee Maria Cortes on the latest Radio Sustain (mp3)!
Ten blocks north of IATP's office in Minneapolis, a boisterous crowd braved 5-degree temperatures to march in front of Chipotle. The restaurant chain, who touts "food with integrity," was under fire over its mistreatment of workers. A few weeks before Christmas, Chipotle fired—without notice—nearly 700 immigrant workers in Minnesota, and at least some were fired without paying back wages.
"We’re seeking the truth and to get the company to sit down and engage in dialogue with us because they have refused to do so," said Maria Cortes, a former Chipotle employee who had been fired along with 13 co-workers at the restaurant where she worked. "We’re here because we are seeking that our rights be respected."
Chipotle has been national leader in sourcing environmentally friendly food from family farms, often within regional food networks. The company has told the media that it is simply following the law after it was subjected to a 1-9 audit by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). But it is standard practice for employers to give employees 90 days to clear up any problems with their immigration documents, according to the Service Employees Interational Union (SEIU). Instead, Chipotle fired employees in question immediately. SEIU also believes Chipotle has potentially violated a number of Minnesota state employment laws.
Minnesota's local food leaders, including IATP, have sent a letter to Chipotle CEO Steve Ells, calling for the company to pay back wages to workers, and to stand up for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Signs at today's protest stated, "Chipotle Treats their Chickens and Produce Better than they Treat their Employees" and "Chipocrisy: Selling Mexican Culture and then Selling Out Mexican Workers." A website, Chipocrisy, has more details.
"I worked at Chipotle for over nine years and always treated my job as if I owned the restaurant, wanting to do my best for my managers and for my customers," explained Jaunita Cruz, a Chipotle employee fired in December. "But getting fired so abruptly was a disrespect to my nine years of service."
While the rapidly growing local and healthy foods movement has made many gains over the last several years, food and farm workers are often left out of the equation. But there can be no "food with integrity" without fair treatment of workers.