There are a total of 9 Quizno's sub stores in downtown Denver, and this Tuesday most of them were on the route of a parade of bicycles that finally came to a halt outside the store occupying the large, glass cube at 17th and Arapahoe (map.) As the lunch hour crowd looked on, the group dismounted and held a demonstration calling for the Denver-based sandwich franchise to take action to improve the wages and working conditions in Florida's tomato fields. The protesters identified themselves as allies of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farm worker-led organization in Immokalee, Florida-- the state's largest agricultural community.
Activists from Denver Fair Food and the Student Farmworker Alliance took to the megaphone to describe the conditions faced by farm workers, the stagnation of farming wages, and what they say is Quizno's reluctance to reach an agreement with the CIW to improve them. Among the group's demands is an increase of 1 penny per pound of tomatoes picked, which would go directly to farm workers. This minor change would nearly double the compensation currently received by workers and drastically improve their standard of living, explained group organizers.
Similar agreements have already been in place for several years at other food industry giants, including Taco Bell, McDonald's and Burger King. One protester held a sign listing these restaurants and urging Quizno's to "join the winning team."
"It's time for Quizno's to take responsibility for remedying the abysmal conditions in its tomato suppliers operations," said Rob McGoey of Denver Fair Food, "Only by working with the Coalition of Imokalee workers can Quizno's accomplish this."
The franchise has been in talks with the CIW, but activists were frustrated by the pace of change. This week Quizno's Headquarters issued a statement explaining it had instituted more stringent social responsibility guidelines for its tomato suppliers, and was initiating a program to pay the 1 penny more per pound demanded by the Coalition.
"Quiznos continues to work closely with partners across all segments of our business to maintain socially responsible practices and ensure that all people we work with are treated with dignity and care,” said CEO Rick Schaden.
The news was announced to the group gathered in downtown Denver by way of a letter from the Coalition of Imokalee Workers, to a round of applause.