In late May, a group of Brown students and Rhode Islanders drove down to New York City to be part of a beautiful, 200+-person march on the Union Square Wendy’s to show the fuerza of the Fair Food movement before their May shareholders’ meeting. CIW proxies in the meeting reminded Wendy’s shareholders that current CEO Emil Brolick was CEO of Taco Bell when Taco Bell signed onto the Fair Food Agreement and voiced his strong support. Flying in the face of this endorsement, Wendy’s soon after released a statement claiming that the CIW’s program is unfair and “un-American,” decrying the CIW’s supposed demands that corporations pay a 1-penny premium to non-employees, but doubling back and alleging that they already pay a premium and further asserting that all of their tomatoes already come from producers participating in the Fair Food Program. You can find a comprehensive response to the Wendy’s statement here, but briefly: under the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s will pay a 1 penny premium to its suppliers, NOT farmworkers (the penny is passed on to farmworkers later); furthermore, there is no way to verify whether Wendy’s is paying a premium or buying tomatoes from Program participants because it is not part of the Fair Food Program, which is the only existing system that is accountable to farmworkers themselves. Wendy’s’ response is nothing new, and the Fair Food nation responded with actions calling on Wendy’s to admit their folly and sign onto the program.
Soon after, students from the MET high school who had been visited by Oscar and Claudia in April decided to deliver a letter to Wendy’s. Flora Silva, a senior at the MET, wrote an eloquent response; here’s part of it:
It hurt my heart to know that workers were being treated that way, so my advisory group and I walked over to the Wendy’s down the street from our school to bring our letters and make even the smallest amount of change in our little South Providence community. When we got there another classmate of mine who is also passionate about food started persuading some customers in line ahead of us to join the movement. Everyone was very into the idea of supporting this movement, until we reached the front of the line and asked the manager if she would take our letters. We were surprised when they just dismissed us and said “We’re not allowed to take those letters anymore”. Why wouldn’t Wendy’s allow workers to at least take the letters? It just shows a bigger problem; Wendy’s doesn’t care about this issue, at least the Wendy’s in our community doesn’t. It was honestly disappointing.
We soon learned that Wendy’s is refusing to take letters and respond to delegations nationwide. We may be disappointed by Wendy’s dismissal, but we are not discouraged. The involvement of high school students, people of faith, those involved in unions, those fighting for queer liberation, environmentally-minded people, students, those working for the rights of women, working class people, people of color, and all of our neighbors has made our struggle strong this year, and it has been an honor to struggle together for justice in our food system!
As we move into the summer months and prepare for the fall, we’re committed to pressuring Wendy’s to sign the Fair Food Agreement. We won’t stop marching, chanting, delivering letters, and more until they acknowledge that ALL people deserve human rights and that they must treat the farmworkers in their supply chain — women, men, people of color, immigrants, queer people, religious people, younger and older people, people of a range of abilities — with dignity. Fair Food compas: watch this page, SLA’s Facebook, and the CIW’s website for updates about the campaign and how you can get involved!