"We are fighting to improve the wages and working conditions for farm workers," said Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) organizer Gerardo Reyes after a screening of the film Harvest of Empire at Studio 35 on Saturday. "If the market is creating poverty in communities like ours, the market has a responsibility to work with us to fix it."
On Wednesday, May 28 at 9 a.m., clergy, students, and residents of Columbus and Dublin will join the CIW for a demonstration outside the 2014 Wendy's annual shareholder meeting at the company's corporate headquarters, 1 Dave Thomas Blvd in Dublin. Together, they will call on the Dublin-based burger giant to join its fast food competitors in supporting the Fair Food Program, a groundbreaking collaboration that has won praise from the White House to the United Nations for its unique success in addressing decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation’s trillion-dollar food industry.
"As a Dublin resident and adoptive mother, I used to think highly of Wendy's," said Professor Nancy Powers, a member of Ohio Fair Food. "But Wendy's refusal to participate in a proven solution to abuses like sexual harassment in its supply chain does a great disservice to both its consumer base and its shareholders. Wendy's brand modernization campaign will remain uncredible if the company has not first made the commitment to support a more modern, more humane agricultural industry."
At a press conference outside of last year's Wendy’s stockholder meeting in New York City, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and President of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights, denounced the corporation’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program. Since then, scores of protests have taken place around the country, including an 800-person march through Dublin to Wendy's Headquarters in March 2014. Meanwhile, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, joined the Fair Food Program in January.
“Through the Fair Food Program, we're seeing the human rights transformation of an entire industry, affecting tens of thousands of workers," said Gerardo Reyes. "Wendy's continues its unconscionable refusal to participate in this proven solution to abuses in its supply chain, while shamelessly claiming to pay a premium on its Florida tomatoes and purchase them exclusively from suppliers participating in the Fair Food Program.
"The truth is, Wendy's is not paying the Fair Food Premium, and the company refuses to commit to suspending purchases from growers who violate the Fair Food Code of Conduct, the very obligation that has made the Program successful."
Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), McDonald's and Wendy's — only Wendy's is not participating in the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick was the President of Taco Bell in 2005 when that chain became the first corporation to commit to upholding farm worker rights. He stated at the time, "We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution," adding, "We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership." Nine years later, under Brolick's leadership, Wendy's has refused to join the program.
The Fair Food Program was heralded in the Washington Post as "one of the great human rights success stories of our day" and in a White House report as "one of the most successful and innovative programs" for combating modern-day slavery. Since 2011, participating buyers have invested more than $15 million into the Fair Food Program, supporting the first significant pay increase for workers in over 30 years.
Ohio Fair Food is a growing state-wide network of Ohio residents, students, people of faith, workers, and concerned consumers who lead the Campaign for Fair Food in Ohio.