The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Tell Wendy’s to Be Part of the Solution
October 1, 2015
For decades, farmworkers have experienced rampant wage theft, sexual harassment, health dangers, discrimination, and poverty — but thanks to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, a new day of human rights is dawning in Florida tomato fields and beyond. Every major fast-food corporation has agreed to take responsibility for abuse in their supply chain by joining the Fair Food Program — all except one: Wendy’s.
Wendy’s is the only major fast-food chain still refusing to join the Fair Food Program — through which businesses partner with growers and farmworkers to ensure that the people who supply their produce are treated with dignity and respect.
UUSC has a long tradition of supporting workers’ rights. That’s why we’re standing with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to call on Wendy’s to take action. Farm laborers have long been among the lowest-paid workers in the country, earning just $10,000–$12,000 each year. And mistreatment — including “abductions, pistol whippings, confinement at gunpoint, debt bondage and starvation wages” — has plagued their working lives as well.
But over the last few years, a new reality for farmworkers has started to emerge. Through the worker-driven Fair Food Program, participating corporations and growers must guarantee safer working conditions for farmworkers. This unique partnership has reduced sexual harassment, discrimination, and health dangers; improved wages; and created a system for workers to voice complaints without fear of retribution.
The program now covers 90% of the tomato industry in Florida. In less than a decade, this agreement has nearly doubled wages for 30,000 tomato pickers. And that success is spreading. For the first time this summer, the Fair Food Program expanded beyond Florida to tomato fields in Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, and the Carolinas. What’s more, berry pickers, dairy laborers, construction workers, and even garment workers in Bangladesh are exploring the Fair Food Program model.
While this worker- and market-driven strategy has been a runaway success, holdouts like Wendy’s refuse to take responsibility for just working conditions in an industry long plagued by abuse. And the atrocities continue: in Florida, investigations of beatings, rape, sexual harassment, and retaliation are ongoing. By refusing to sign onto the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s is creating a market for tomatoes not certified as “fair” and is failing to help transform an industry.