Drawing of girl's head with red pigtails with blue bows and freckles with a circle and line through it in black on top of her indicating No, and the words Wendy's Boycott

As we go to press, dozens of farmworker women and men from Florida and scores of clergy, students and consumer allies from around Columbus and the country plan to converge at Wendy’s Dublin, Ohio headquarters on Tuesday morning, June 5 at 9am, 1 Dave Thomas Blvd. off of 161, to protest Wendy’s deafening silence in the face of a growing national boycott of the fast-food retailer.

As a colorful public protest draws attention outside headquarters’ Thomas Conference Center, a farmworker delegation plans to enter the meeting to directly address Wendy’s Board and leadership on the company’s failure to join McDonald’s, Burger King, and 12 other retailer peers in the Fair Food Program. The workers and consumers will decry Wendy’s choice to abandon Florida farms participating in the Fair Food Program in order to source tomatoes from Mexico, where egregious rights violations like sexual assault, child labor, and modern-day slavery are commonplace and well-documented.

Farm workers are asking Wendy’s customers to boycott the “family style” fast food restaurant.  Wendy’s was named after the daughter of the founder, Dave Thomas. His image of what a family company should be is what is etched in the minds of most consumers: Dave Thomas, “Do the Right Thing.” Dave Thomas, “Treat people with respect.” Dave Thomas, “Give everyone a chance to have a piece of the pie. If the pie's not big enough, make a bigger pie.”

Perhaps most memorably, people think of Dave Thomas as the philanthropist that advocated for adoption, and as an infant was adopted himself. Unfortunately, Dave Thomas passed away in early 2002. Were he alive today, Dave Thomas would certainly have taken this issue off his desk and be proud to be a participant of the Fair Food Program. At least that is what many in Columbus believe.

Wendy’s is not a family company anymore. It is managed and controlled by a multibillion dollar asset management firm, Trian Partners based in New York City, whose main motivation is shareholder profit above all, even human, costs.

After ten years of appealing to Wendy’s corporate leadership, in 2015 the CIW discovered that Wendy’s decided to quit purchasing their tomatoes from Florida growers. Wendy’s corporate management decided to purchase from Bioparques de Occidente, a Mexican grower. The abrupt and unexplained change in Wendy’s purchasing signaled to the CIW leadership that a boycott was necessary to advance their struggle.

Freelance journalist Evan Davis captured a discussion in 2013 between advocates and farm workers with Wendy’s spokesperson Bob Bertini. Mr. Bertini received 156,000 signatures at their flagship restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The petition asked that Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program.

When asked why Wendy’s would not sit down and talk about participating in the program, Mr. Bertini stated that “all of our suppliers in Florida have already signed the Fair Food Agreement and deal with all the regulations dealing with treatment of workers and so forth.”

When confronted with the fact that Wendy’s is enjoying the benefit of the labor but not paying the additional penny-per-pound to the workers, Mr. Bertini replied, “We already pay a premium for the tomatoes and we expect our suppliers to pass that on to their employees. Those employees do not work for us.”

The fact is that Wendy’s is not part of the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s is the only holdout of the fast food restaurants. Wendy’s purchases from growers in Mexico that enslave and abduct employees and families. Bluntly put, Wendy’s has no regard for workers in the food supply chain. They hoard the penny-per-pound and taint their fruit with the pains and misery of low wage slavery. The Wendy’s leadership serves the public a corporate burger, and since it is made-to-order…they can add an extra tomato slice of slavery.

The two-year-old boycott, which now includes Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano and millions represented by endorsing religious denominations including the Presbyterian Church (USA), demands that Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program, a worker-driven workplace monitoring initiative that has

virtually ended sexual harassment and assault for tens of thousands of agricultural workers in seven states along the East Coast. The Fair Food Program received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 2017 and has been lauded by the EEOC and PBS as “unique in the country” in eradicating workplace sexual harassment.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a human rights organization and Presidential Medal recipient internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of social responsibility, anti-sexual violence efforts, community organizing, and ending slavery. The CIW’s Fair Food Program is a groundbreaking partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and fourteen major food retailers.

Participating retailers agree to purchase exclusively from suppliers who meet a worker-driven code of conduct, which includes a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and sexual harassment. Retailers also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium, which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out directly to workers by their employers. Since the program’s inception in 2011, buyers have paid over $26 million into the FFP.

 

For more information, visit www.fairfoodprogram.org and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers at www.ciw-online.org

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