As people of faith… we pledge to join the boycott of Wendy’s until Wendy’s commits to justice for the workers that make your profits possible.”
May 25, 2016 — Adding to the growing drumbeat of support from the faith community, over twenty powerful religious leaders have penned an open letter to Wendy’s leadership, just ahead of tomorrow’s shareholder meeting in Ohio. Unequivocal in their support for the Fair Food Program and the new era of human rights for farmworkers it has delivered, denominational presidents, bishops, ministers, rabbis and authors are standing together to urge Wendy’s leadership to get with the Program.
From their positions within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other mainstream faith communities, these spiritual and religious leaders hail from a diverse set of institutions that represent millions upon millions of followers. Read more.
New York, NY (March 4, 2016) On Thursday, March 3, hundreds of farmworkers, religious leaders, students, and consumers gathered near Columbus Circle to launch a national boycott of Wendy’s, the world’s third largest hamburger chain. Following the boycott announcement, the protesters marched from Columbus Circle to the Park Avenue offices of Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz, Founding Partner and CEO of the activist hedge fund Trian Partners and a major shareholder in Wendy’s. Read more.
Disciples have worked with the National Farm Worker Ministry for over forty years to promote farm worker justice. One key farm worker led partner in our efforts has been the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)–with their remarkably successful “Fair Food Program.”
At the 2015 Disciples General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, HUNDREDS OF DISCIPLES joined a march to encourage WENDY’S corporation to join the top fast food companies of Taco Bell, Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, and others to SIGN ON to the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s participation is a request we’ve repeated for YEARS– through high-level letters, calls, marches, and meetings. Our most recent letter was the one signed by nearly 200 Disciples and friends, and sent to Mr. Emil Brolick, CEO of Wendy’s, following our General Assembly.
Some fourteen years ago, when the Campaign for Fair Food launched and two buses full of farmworkers set out from the dusty town of then-obsure Immokalee on the first ever Taco Bell Truth Tour, they were leaving an industry mired in grinding poverty, rampant wage theft, unaddressed sexual harassment. Considered by their supervisors to be disposable and disenfranchised, the workers criss-crossed the nation with their vision — and headed toward the largest fast food corporation in the world.
But for all that they lacked in rights, lacked in pay, lacked in recognition for the tremendous fruits of their grueling labor, what the united crew of workers held was more powerful than the profits and persuasion of any multi-billion dollar corporation whose practices made them poor: Truth.
Truth that that their undervalued, backbreaking, skilled work of harvesting the country’s fruits and vegetables merited nothing less than just pay and due respect. Truth that consumers, when made aware of the exploitation behind their goods, had the will and power to hold corporate retailers accountable. Truth that those corporate retailers could, in turn, harness their market power to reverse the trend of ever-diminishing wages and demand higher ethical standards from their suppliers. Truth that farmworkers, when united with other people of faith and conscience, could see that vision to fruition.
A decade and a half later, where we were once exposing a truth, the truth has now long been recognized and accepted. Where we once were imagining a solution, we’re now inviting partners to join us in a realized vision, a concrete reality.
Today, the Fair Food Program has welcomed twelve corporate retailers, most recently Walmart, the largest retailer in the world. Some ninety percent of the Florida tomato industry has come on board. The Fair Food Standards Council works round-the-clock to conduct field and farm audits, investigate complaints and implement corrective action plans. The program’s education, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms have been recognized around the country and around the world for creating, in the words of the White House, “one of the most innovative and successful programs” to end modern slavery today.
Most importantly of all, the Fair Food Program is working. This past fall, the CIW accepted the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom from Want Medal for “creating a sustainable blueprint for worker-driven corporate social responsibility, winning fairer wages; work with dignity; and freedom from forced labor, sexual harassment and violence in the workplace for nearly 100,000 workers.”
And yet, amid this transformation of an industry, heralded from the United Nations to Florida tomato growers themselves, Publix Supermarkets, Florida’s hometown grocer and the largest corporation in Florida, has staunchly refused to join the program for over four years. Despite countless protests and pray-ins, a 6-day fast and 200-mile march and countless rebukes of the falsehoods they’ve disseminated, Publix remains steadfast in its refusal. Though the Fair Food Program now enjoys tremendous gains, its full potential cannot be realized until holdout corporations, too, decide that they will only purchase from farms upholding the highest human rights standards.
So this March, we’ll be uniting our voices once more to make it clearer than ever that such a way of doing business is now part of a bygone era — but this time, we won’t just stop in Florida. Because while Publix is “aggressively” expanding throughout the Southeast US, support for Fair Food is growing even faster, in Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte — and to hundreds of thousands internationally. As the Editorial Board of the Tampa Bay Times (one of Publix’s hometown papers) wrote itself: ”With Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart now participating in the program, there is no reason Publix should not join its grocery competitors in helping to raise pay and improve working conditions in Florida’s tomato fields.”
But seeing as Publix isn’t the only holdout to this proven solution to abuse in their supply chain, we must visit the Midwest as well, to the Ohio hometown of burger giant Wendy’s. Of the top five fast food retailers in the country — McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s — Wendy’s remains the only one still refusing to join the Fair Food Program.
Our tour visit to Wendy’s Headquarters will come almost a decade after Emil Brolick, then-Taco Bell President, spoke these words upon signing the first Fair Food Agreement with the CIW: “As an industry leader, we are pleased to lend our support to and work with the CIW to improve working and pay conditions for farmworkers in the Florida tomato fields… any solution must be industry-wide … but we are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution.” Today, as CEO of Wendy’s, the very same Emil Brolick has remained silent.
In the CIW’s own words: “Now is the time for this indefensible exploitation to end. Now is the time for Publix and Wendy’s to abandon the road that leads back to the day when farmworkers were invisible and the hollow claims of corporate-led social responsibility went unchallenged. Now is the time for Publix and Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Nation — farmworkers, consumers, growers, and their competitors — on the road to real social responsibility, respect for farmworkers as human beings, and a 21st century food industry where human rights are not only protected, but valued, the road to the New Day.”
This March 5-15, please join us. Join us for the major Wendy’s witness on March 7 & 8 in Columbus, or head to Lakeland for the major call to Publix on March 14 & 15.
Because the fields of Florida have forever been transformed, and no resistance from Publix or Wendy’s will turn us back. Join us as farmworkers and allies tell them together: Now is the time.
Claire and Elena
Interfaith Action of SW Florida
People of faith partnering with farmworkers to cultivate justice in the fields
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Over a hundred members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) march on Wendy’s in Columbus, OH, evoke late Disciple and Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas
July 19, 2015 — When leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) learned that this weekend’s annual General Assembly was to take place in Wendy’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio, they wasted no time planning a demonstration at a local Wendy’s restaurant. Compelled by their deep values of justice and long history of standing with farmworkers since the days of Taco Bell til now, the Disciples also felt committed to urgent action by a key piece of Disciples history: Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, was himself a member of the Disciples of Christ.
When the long-awaited day of the protest arrived this past Sunday, a menacing forecast of flash floods and lightening threatened to call it off. But just moments before the action was scheduled to begin, the sun broke through and Disciples poured out before a newly-opened downtown Wendy’s, over one hundred strong. Participants had learned of the demonstration from the many groups sponsoring the action: Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Disciples Justice Action Network, North American Pacific Asian Disciples, Disciples Peace Fellowship, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Columbia, Ohio Fair Food, the Central Ohio Worker Center and Ohio State University Student/Farmworker Alliance – there to remind Wendy’s that the ongoing national student boycott of Wendy’s is only building momentum at its origin campus of OSU.
This week, the Fair Food Program passed a truly extraordinary milestone, and it was marked, quite literally, with a road sign that read, “Welcome to Georgia!”
June 6, 2015 — The photo at left, taken in the early hours of the morning in a field near Bainbridge, Georgia, depicts the CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) education team conducting one of the Fair Food Program’s trademark worker-to-worker education sessions. These trainings are the very heart of the Program, designed to equip workers with a thorough understanding of their rights under the Fair Food Code of Conduct — the right to work free of sexual harassment and slavery, the right to report abuses or problems on the farm without fear of retaliation, the right to shade, drinking water, and clean bathrooms in the fields, to name just a few. Armed with this knowledge, workers themselves become the frontline defenders of their own rights, an army of thousands of monitors keeping a close watch over compliance with the Program’s code of conduct and signaling possible violations through reports to the Program’s 24-hr complaint line. On this foundation of informed worker participation, the Fair Food Program has been able to transform the Florida tomato industry into what one policy expert in the New York Times called “the best working environment in American agriculture.” Read more.
June 3, 2015 — Is Wendy’s ready to continue alienating young people and consumers rather than join a proven solution to farmworker poverty and abuse?” Ohio Fair Food takes its message straight to Wendy’s shareholders at annual meeting!
“We want to know that the food we consume does not come at the cost of another person’s dignity…”
After weeks of preparation and building excitement, scores of allies from the Ohio Fair Food organizing network made good on their promise to stand alongside Florida’s farmworkers this past Monday at Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting in Dublin, Ohio. They gathered there in solidarity with the CIW’s call for Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, and we have a first-hand photo report of all the action to share with you today — from outside the meeting and inside, as well, where the CIW and student allies addressed the shareholders and company executives directly. Read more.
May 29, 2014 — This week, Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, CC(DOC) General Minister and President, added her name to the list of top national faith leaders who requested the CEO of Wendy’s company to participate in the Fair Food Program, developed by our farm worker and faith partners at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Interfaith Action organization of Florida. The letter was presented to Wendy’s CEO during their annual shareholders’ meeting held in Ohio. The letter was combined with a call in campaign, which urges Wendy’s to demonstrate their commitment to ending farm worker abuse by paying a fair food premium which will then be distributed back to tomato workers. Already, the other top US fast food producers of McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Subway have joined the Fair Food program. See a sample script to continue the call ins.
May 28, 2014 — On May 28th, Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, CC(DOC) General Minister and President, added her name to the list of top national faith leaders who requested the CEO of Wendy’s company to participate in the Fair Food Program, developed by our farm worker and faith partners at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Interfaith Action organization of Florida. The letter was presented to Wendy’s CEO during their annual shareholders’ meeting held in Ohio. The letter was combined with a call in campaign, which urges Wendy’s to demonstrate their commitment to ending farm worker abuse by paying a fair food premium which will then be distributed back to tomato workers. Already, the other top US fast food producers of McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Subway have joined the Fair Food program. Read more updates.