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Monday: Vigil for farm workers at Wendy's flagship store opening

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At 4 p.m. on Monday, Wendy's will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new flagship store at 4555 West Dublin Granville Road in Dublin. It will showcase the history of the fast food chain in a modern, state-of-the-art restaurant that includes flat screen TVs, WiFi bars, lounge chairs, and a fireplace.

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Dozens of Ohio residents, religious leaders, and concerned consumers will hold a vigil outside ribbon-cutting ceremony to call on Wendy's to support human rights in its tomato supply chain by joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' internationally-recognized Fair Food Program. At the conclusion of the vigil, local religious leaders will deliver to corporate headquarters a petition to Wendy's by the anti-slavery organization Walk Free, signed by over 100,000 people internationally.

The CIW's groundbreaking social responsibility program ensures a humane workplace and increased pay for over 30,000 Florida farm workers. It has won the praise of human rights observers from the White House to the United Nations.

This week, the CIW spoke in Geneva at the request of the United Nations to over 1,700 delegates representing 85 countries about the Fair Food Program's successful formula for advancing human rights.

Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell, 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 to sign a Fair Food Agreement. He announced that agreement by stating, "We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution." He added, "We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership."

Eight years later, despite those words, and now with 11 corporations and 90% of the Florida tomato industry on board, Wendy's under Mr. Brolick's leadership refuses to participate in the Program.

"What Wendy’s fails to see is that flat screen TVs and lounge chairs in its flagship restaurant won't take it from 'old fashioned' to 'modern,'" said Santiago Perez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. "Instead, Wendy’s must support modern and humane working conditions for those who work in its supply chain — especially when a proven mechanism like the Fair Food Program already exists."

The CIW's Fair Food Program is an historic partnership among farm workers, Florida tomato growers, and eleven leading food corporations. By committing to the FFP, participating corporations demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers and purchase exclusively from those who meet those higher standards, among them required time clocks, health and safety protections, and a zero tolerance policy for slavery and sexual assault.

Participating corporations also pay a "penny-per-pound" premium, which is passed down through the company's supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers. The FFP was heralded in the Washington Post as "one of the great human rights success stories of our day" and in a White House report concerning global efforts to combat human trafficking as "one of the most successful and innovative programs" to that end. Since 2011, buyers have paid over $11 million through the Fair Food Program.

"As Wendy's opens its flagship store to celebrate its founder, Dave Thomas, we hope that its current leadership can live up to Thomas's founding values, such as 'Treat People with Respect,' 'Give Something Back,' and 'Do The Right Thing,'" said the Rev. Karl Stevens of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. "Ohio residents are calling on Wendy's to use this opening as an opportunity to turn the values it claims to support into a reality by ensuring that farm workers' basic human rights and dignity are respected."

Ohio Fair Food is a growing, state-wide network of Ohio residents, students, people of faith, workers and concerned consumers who lead the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food in Ohio.

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