Kerry Kennedy and Farmworkers to Decry Wendy’s at Manhattan Stockholders Meeting

This morning, Kerry Kennedy, human rights leaders, and an interfaith group of a dozen clergy, joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in front of Wendy’s corporate shareholders meeting in Manhattan, demanding the fast food chain join the White House-recognized Fair Food Program – an effort to ensure humane working conditions and fair pay for farmworkers in the company’s supply chain.
Inside the meeting, the CIW had three proxies, Gerardo Reyes, Rev. Noelle Damico, and Citlalic Jeffers Peña who asked questions directly of CEO Emil Brolick.
During the annual shareholder meeting Brolick stated that Wendy’s was already participating in the Fair Food Program because the company purchases its tomatoes from growers in the Fair Food Program. He also said that they were paying a premium for their tomatoes. Mr. Brolick’s misleading statements were categorically refuted by Gerardo Reyes and Rev. Damico.
“Wendy’s is not participating in the Fair Food Program but its CEO has claimed in front of its shareholders that it does” Gerardo said to Brolick. “Wendy’s has not signed a fair food agreement with the CIW. Wendy’s is not paying a penny premium to increase workers’ pay. And Wendy’s has not committed to using its purchasing power to eradicate abuses in the the fields together with growers and farmworkers. Saying that Wendy’s is participating in the Fair Food Program when it is not it undermines the concrete commitment and contributions of the eleven corporations that actually are participating and creates a misleading picture for its shareholders and customers.”

Wendy’s is the only of the nation’s five largest fast-food chains to reject the FFP, which has won the praise of the White House and the United Nations for its unprecedented success in addressing decades-old farm labor abuses.

The Fair Food Program is an historic partnership among farmworkers, 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 these higher standards, among them required time clocks, health and safety protections, and a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and sexual harassment. Participating corporations also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium, which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers. Since 2011, buyers have paid $10 million into the FFP.

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 efforts to combat human trafficking as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” to that end.

“Wendy’s calls itself ‘a cut above’ its competition,” stated Oscar Otzoy of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, “yet, Wendy’s is a cut below the rest of its key competitors when it comes to human rights, as the nation’s only major fast-food chain not participating in the Fair Food Program. They may take pride in their old-fashioned burgers, but it is definitely time for Wendy’s to end their old-fashioned approach to the human rights of the farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes inside those burgers.”

Wendy’s CEO, Emil Brolick, served as president of Taco Bell in 2005 when that company joined the FFP. At the time, Mr. Brolick announced in a joint press release with CIW:

“We recognize that Florida tomato workers do not enjoy the same rights and conditions as employees in other industries, and there is a need for reform. We have indicated that any solution must be industry-wide, as our company simply does not have the clout alone to solve the issues raised by the CIW, but 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.”