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Black man holding a sign that says Freedom from Sexual Violence

On Tuesday, June 5, Mr. Nelson Peltz, Board Chairman of Wendy’s, International and Todd Penegor, Wendy’s CEO, announced their new initiative designed to ensure a steady supply of locally grown fresh produce by purchasing tomatoes and other fresh foods primarily from greenhouse growing operations in the United States and Canada. One might suppose this move would not only provide a better tomato supply, but also address the modern-day slavery, sexual violence and other abuses in fields in the U.S. and Mexico where Wendy’s had been purchasing their tomatoes. After all, what could be more farmworker-friendly than locally-grown greenhouse produce?

Unfortunately for Wendy’s – and for the workers in their supply chain – prescribing a greenhouse as the cure for labor abuses is about as effective as prescribing an apple to cure cancer.  Farmworkers themselves could tell you that.  Wendy’s move to greenhouses followed years of action by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their faith, student and consumer allies, who were calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program (FFP), the only proven model for corporate giants like Wendy’s to eliminate abuse in their supply chains.  As publicized in the recent Canadian documentary, Migrant Dreams, extreme abuses like debt bondage persist even in greenhouse working environments.  In response to Wendy’s announcement, Florida farmworkers with CIW said, “workers in greenhouses face the very same situations of abuse, and sometimes its even worse than in an open field.”

As Wendy’s management knows, the Fair Food Program has ended sexual harassment, beatings, wage theft, and other abuses through one-to-one worker trainings by the CIW and monitoring and inspection by staff of the Fair Food Standards Council. Other top fast food restaurants —Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Chipotle — as well as Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and six other companies back up those rights with a commitment to only buy from participating growers.  All of Wendy’s own competitors are partners in this historic and internationally celebrated program that is transforming the agricultural industry in the United States.

Wendy’s, we’re still waiting for the answer to the question we’re so often asked when we talk to our neighbors about the Fair Food Program:  “Why not Wendy’s?

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