Farm workers, students, religious leaders protest Wendy’s supporting national boycott

Protesters stood in front of Wendy's on Tuesday, Oct. 4th to protect farmworkers’ human rights. (photo by Jomilla Newsom)

Protesters stood in front of Wendy’s on Tuesday, Oct. 4th to protect farmworkers’ human rights. (photo by Jomilla Newsom)

Dozens of students, community members, and local religious leaders protested Wendy’s at 1045 28th Avenue N to call attention to the national consumer boycott of the fast-food giant launched by farm workers on October 4.

Joined by leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), participants in the protest kicked off a national campaign of action, as farm workers visit over 20 cities in six regional ‘Behind the Braids’ tours to promote the boycott during the months of October and November.

Farm workers and thousands of consumer allies along the tour routes will protest Wendy’s continued refusal to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, a proven, worker-designed solution to longstanding human rights abuses in the fields. The Fair Food Program (FFP) has been heralded as “the best workplace monitoring program in the U.S.” on the front page of the New York Times and was awarded a Presidential Medal in 2015 for its “extraordinary efforts in combating human trafficking.”

Instead of joining the Fair Food Program and doing its part to improve farm labor conditions here in the U.S., as have its principal competitors (McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, and Chipotle are all participating buyers in the widely-recognized human rights program), Wendy’s has chosen to shift its purchases out of Florida to Mexico, where human rights violations are endemic and go largely unchecked. Specifically, Harper’s magazine recently broke the news that Wendy’s purchases from a Mexican agribusiness giant, Bioparques de Occidente, that was the subject of a major slavery prosecution in 2013, when it was found to have hundreds of workers being held against their will in egregious conditions.

In a statement, Nely Rodriguez of the CIW said: “Wendy’s is quick to offer their Supplier Code of Conduct, released last year, as their substitute for the Fair Food Program, and their reason for not joining.

But without any effective measures for enforcement or worker participation, Wendy’s code does not measure up to a commitment to the Fair Food Program. In the Program, retailers are bound to purchase tomatoes exclusively from growers that abide by a worker-designed code of conduct that includes zero tolerance for forced labor and sexual assault.

“Following the implementation of the Fair Food Program in Florida’s tomato fields, Wendy’s shifted their purchases away from participating farms committed to respecting farm workers’ human rights to farms in Mexico where oversight is effectively non-existent.

We’re embarking on these six ‘Behind the Braids’ tours and joining dozens of consumer allies in Atlanta today because Wendy’s cannot continue to hide behind empty standards any longer.”