(SAN FRANCISCO) – A group of Taylor Farms employees and advocates from Working Partnerships USA, the Consumer Federation of California, HEAL Food Alliance and the Teamsters protested today to call on Chipotle Mexican Grill to hold its supplier Taylor Farms accountable for health and safety violations. The action took place outside a Chipotle on Fourth Street in San Francisco, Calif. View more photos from the protest, here.
Taylor Farms, a California-based produce company, supplies tomatoes and peppers to Chipotles across the West. Its Tracy, Calif., plant has drawn scrutiny for food recalls, safety and health violations and worker abuses.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently levied dozens of citations and more than $95,000 in fines against Taylor Farms and its temp agencies in response to a toxic chemical spill and other safety problems. The October 2015 spill sent 20 workers, including pregnant women, to the hospital. Last year Cal/OSHA also cited Taylor Farms for 44 other safety and health violations.
“During the spill, workers were ordered to keep working, and were warned not to talk about the incident,” said Rome Aloise, Teamsters International Vice President and President of Joint Council 7. “This is one of many reasons that workers at Taylor Farms’ Tracy plant aspire to form a union and collectively bargain a contract with the company. They fear for their health, and they fear retaliation if they speak up about worker safety. Taylor Farms is also being prosecuted for over 50 violations of federal law that protects workers’ rights. When Taylor Farms workers came together to form their union, the company responded with firings, intimidation and threats of deportation. Today, we protest these offenses at Chipotle restaurants nationwide.”
“In October I was two months pregnant and I was scared about the chemicals because I didn’t know what would happen to my baby or to my three daughters if something happened to me,” said Maria Leon, a pregnant Taylor Farms employee who was exposed to the chemical spill. “I am now eight months pregnant and every time I think of that day of the chemical spill, I cry. I am scared because I don’t know if my baby will be ok because I was exposed to the chemicals.”
“The hundreds of mostly immigrant workers at Taylor Farms in Tracy have the right to go to work each day and expect that the company will have procedures in place to protect them from hazardous chemical exposure, and to have an emergency plan in place should a spill happen,” said Maria Noel Fernandez,
Organizing Director for Working Partnerships USA. “Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that Taylor Farms had none of that in place. This is especially egregious since Taylor Farms had an identical chemical spill in 2012 and was cited by OSHA for safety and health violations. It is unconscionable that nothing changed and that Taylor Farms would risk its workers’ lives in this way.”
“Chipotle claims it runs its business with the values of integrity and sustainability. Therefore, Chipotle has a social responsibility to ensure that the practices throughout its supply chain follow those same values,” said Navina Khanna, Director of HEAL Food Alliance. “Chipotle can’t just cut and run from Taylor Farms – that would punish the workers and make things worse. Chipotle must hold Taylor Farms accountable and require it to live up to these values, which must include treating its workers with respect, recognizing their right to form a union and keeping them safe from harm.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit www.teamster.org. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.