Farmworkers return to NYC to demand, “How Much Longer, Wendy’s?
New York, NY - Immokalee farmworkers and their families returned to to Nelson Peltz’s now-storied offices at Trian Partners, 280 Park Ave. in Manhattan on July 19, 2018 for a major march to demand that Wendy’s, the final fast food hold-out from the Fair Food Program, make an unequivocal commitment to human rights, once and for all.

Following Wendy’s move to repatriate its tomato purchases from Mexico in response to consumers’ human rights concerns – but continued refusal to join the Fair Food Program – farmworkers and allies prepare to turn up the heat on the company’s leadership in the Big Apple.

Only a few short months ago in March, over 2,000 farmworkers and their consumer allies – from New York and around the country – marched in Manhattan in a powerful display of support for the CIW’s five-day Freedom Fast, a fast carried out by nearly 100 farmworkers and allies on the sidewalk outside of Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz’s hedge fund offices on Park Avenue.

The fasters were calling on Wendy’s to pull its tomato purchases from the Mexican produce industry, where sexual violence against women and other human rights violations are endemic and go unchecked. Instead, the Fair Food Nation was calling on Wendy’s to return to Florida’s tomato industry, where the company’s former suppliers have implemented the award-winning Fair Food Program in partnership with the CIW, transforming the fields into “the best working environment in U.S. agriculture”.

In June, bowing to the pressure generated by the farmworkers’ campaign — including a petition that collected well over 100,000 consumer signatures in support of their demands – Wendy’s came half-way home. In a major announcement earlier this month at its annual shareholder meeting in Ohio, Wendy’s declared its intention to repatriate its tomato purchases from Mexico. It did not, however, agree to join the Fair Food Program. Instead, Wendy’s announced that it would be shifting its purchases to greenhouses in the US and Canada.

Without a doubt, halting purchases from one of the hemisphere’s most abusive produce industries represents a step in the right direction, and the move is proof that when workers and consumers join forces to make their concerns about sexual violence and other human rights violations heard, Wendy’s has no choice but to listen. Indeed, Wendy’s cited the growing focus on “working conditions for tomato farmworkers” driven by the efforts of the “CIW and other associated organizations” as one of the principal reasons for the move. However, Wendy’s decision to continue evading the award-winning Fair Food Program, and instead rely on non-FFP farms and a discredited model of superficial third-party auditing to monitor its supply chain, is unacceptable.

Contrary to Wendy’s claims, greenhouses do not inherently shield farmworkers from the abuse and poverty experienced in the fields. And infrequent third-party audits lacking worker participation or effective enforcement mechanisms have been proven time and time again insufficient to guarantee a workplace free of exploitation

By refusing to accept Wendy’s patently hollow claims that labor conditions in Mexico were decent and that is monitoring systems were up to the job of enforcing human rights, we compelled a multi-billion dollar retail food chain to move its entire tomato supply chain out of a country where violence, corruption, and impunity are the rule. That is a victory for human rights, won through consciousness and the tireless commitment to action of countess farmworkers and allies

But it is not a complete victory, and now it is time to cross the finish line. Neither farmworkers nor consumers will settle for anything less than the worker-driven Fair Food Program and its verifiable guarantee of fundamental human rights for the women and men who harvest our produce. What’s more, we will not allow Wendy’s or Board Chair Nelson Peltz to turn their backs on farmworker women and men’s urgent demands for justice, respect, and true partnership.

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© Erik McGregor - erikrivas@hotmail.com - 917-225-8963
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