National media, Fair Food networks, amplify pressure on Wendy’s ahead of Thursday’s shareholders’ meeting!

Democracy Now (above), Huffington Post, run extensive coverage of growing Wendy’s campaign; solidarity actions organized from coast to coast…

With the Wendy’s shareholders’ meeting in New York just a day away — outside of which, both Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and Larry Cox, former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, will be joining farmworkers from Immokalee and New York City Fair Food activists for a press conference calling on Wendy’s to stop stalling and join the Fair Food Program — the campaign to bring the final fast-food holdout to the table is gaining real momentum in the national press.

The media round-up begins with a strong op-ed by best-selling author and sustainable food advocate, Anna Lappé, published in the pages of the Huffington Post in the lead up to this past weekend’s huge March on Wendy’s in New York City. Here’s an excerpt:

Wendy’s, What Are You Waiting For?: Calling on the Fast Food Giant to Stand up For Farmworkers

Who has freckles, pigtails, and is still holding out from joining the Fair Food Program? If you guessed the fresh-faced mascot of Wendy’s, give yourself a gold star. As part of its efforts to improve conditions in the fields, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of farmworkers based in Florida, is calling on the fast food giant Wendy’s to step up for farmworkers and their families.

The Coalition has had an impressive wave of wins as many companies — eleven to date — have signed an agreement to improve conditions for farmworkers…

… By signing on to the agreement, companies must now comply with a code of conduct that includes protections for cases of wage theft, sexual harassment, and forced labor. Companies also agree to pay a small premium for tomatoes — just a penny more per pound. As a result, workers have safer working conditions and have started seeing increases in their paychecks for the first time in more than 30 years.

Think a penny a pound doesn’t sound like much? It adds up. Over $10 million has been paid out through these victories since January 2011. That number will only keep growing as more companies sign on.

Hey, Wendy’s, are you listening?

Wendy’s, of all companies, can afford paying this premium. One of the highest earning fast food chains in the country, Wendy’s comes in at number two behind McDonald’s. Nearly 6,600 restaurants in the U.S. and around the globe afford the company serious market power– influence that can go a long way to shift purchasing practices. Instead of leveraging that power to demand lower prices from suppliers, Wendy’s could be rewarding growers who respect workers’ rights.” read more

Just a few days after the big action in New York, Democracy Now! invited CIW’s Gerardo Reyes-Chavez for an in-depth interview with Amy Goodman, highlighting not only the Wendy’s campaign but also the remarkable success of the CIW’s Fair Food Program. You can check out that interview in its entirety in the video embed ed at the top of this post.

But that is not all! The Huffington Post’s Latino Voices page also headed out to cover the March on Wendy’s, including a thorough report from all the action and taste of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra as well — don’t miss it!

Wendy’s Fair Food Protest Pushes For Farmworker Rights Ahead Of Shareholder Meeting

NEW YORK — Dozens of protesters gathered in New York City’s Union Square on Saturday to demand that the fast-food giant Wendy’s sign on to an agreement to support agricultural labor rights.

Armed with red balloons reading “old-fashioned exploitation” and waving images of the burger chain’s pigtailed redhead, the protesters marched toward two nearby Wendy’s locations, where they chanted slogans like “Sí se puede” and “Hey Wendy’s, shame on you, farmworkers deserve rights too” to the beat of a blaring brass band… read more, and be sure to check out the video!

We give the last word in today’s media roundup to the CIW’s Oscar Otzoy (pictured below), from an interview with Ohio’s Oscar speaks for tens of thousands farmworkers in Florida — and hundreds of thousands of Fair Food activists around the country — when he calls on Wendy’s to do its part in building a new world in Florida’s fields, a world where farmworkers’ fundamental human rights are respected. And when protesters are gathering outside Wendy’s shareholders’ meeting in New York on Thursday, the fine folks at Ohio Fair Food will be standing outside Wendy’s corporate headquarters in Dublin, OH, in solidarity with Oscar and all his fellow CIW members:

On Thursday: Rally at Wendy’s headquarters to support farm worker rights

On Thursday, May 23 at 10:00 a.m., fair food advocates and consumers will congregate outside Wendy’s corporate headquarters at 1 Dave Thomas Blvd in Dublin to demonstrate the need for Wendy’s to support the highest human rights standards in the U.S. produce industry today.

“Today, Wendy’s is positioning itself to implement sustainable practices and promoting its sourcing of ‘honest ingredients,’ calling itself ‘a cut above’ its competition,” said Oscar Otzoy of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “So far, Wendy’s has only been a cut below the rest on human rights, as the only major fast food chain in the country that has not signed on to the Fair Food Program.” […]

“Farm workers in Immokalee are building a new world — in partnership with growers and willing retail food corporations — in the fields of Florida, where farm workers’ rights are respected and workers have a real voice in the industry,” Otzoy said. “Wendy’s has the obligation to join its competitors in supporting basic human rights for farm workers.” read more

Meanwhile, back in the streets…

As awareness of the nascent Wendy’s campaign spreads, so does action in the streets of cities large and small, from coast to coast. Delegations and protests at local Wendy’s restaurants popped up across the map of the vast Fair Food Nation over the past week, from the Bay Area of northern California to the heartland.

Cincinnati Fair Food members rally outside a local Wendy’s in the lead up to next week’s shareholder meeting (featuring a re-appearance of iconic red and yellow flags from the Campaign’s 200-mile march, on the left!)

Bay Area Fair Food came together for a raucous Wendy’s action, as brassy as their New York counterparts! Committee members were joined by the Brass Liberation Orchestra (below, left) as well as local food service workers from UNITE HERE local 2850. Spirits fueled by the uplifting music, protesters held a lively picket outside of Wendy’s before heading inside to deliver their letter.

Cincinnati Fair Food (above) also took to the streets, delivering their own manager letter and staging a colorful picket outside a local Wendy’s.

Cincinnati Fair Food is planning another action at the headquarters in Dublin, OH, on Thursday, to take place simultaneously with the shareholder meeting action in New York.

At these and many of the other actions across the country, including New York’s big march, an interesting phenomenon has begun to emerge, which is something of a first in the 13-yr history of the Campaign for Fair Food: At protest after protest, managers are refusing to speak to the manager delegations and refusing to accept letters expressing the delegation members’ concerns about Wendy’s supply chain practices (the photo below is from the manager delegation in Cincinnati).

And, thanks to a manager at one of New York’s dozens of Wendy’s restaurants, we happen to know that the mandate to refuse the manager letter came directly from the corporate level in the form of a memo to all Wendy’s restaurants. In effect, the company is refusing to even listen to its consumers about the unprecedented progress in human rights taking place in Florida’s fields and what Wendy’s can do to help to advance that progress (and, in the process, keeping its own employees in the dark about the conditions in its supply chain, too).

For a company that exists on the razor’s edge of competition with an abundance of easily substituted alternatives — many of them companies that have already committed to the highest standards for social responsibility in their Florida tomato supply chains — that is an impressive, and risky, commitment to ignorance. It will be interesting to see how executives respond when presented with over 90,000 signaturesby farmworkers and their allies at Thursday’s shareholders’ meeting collected through the online petition calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.

Unfortunately for Wendy’s, the act of refusing a manager letter does not miraculously make it vanish — nor does it make disappear the growing number of people at the doorstep there to deliver it. If anything, it only redoubles their resolve to be heard.

But most importantly, digging your head deeply into the sand does not make the growing call for real corporate social responsibility — from Immokalee to Bangladesh — go away. It may quiet the sound in your own ears, but the situation on the ground doesn’t change. In this age of information, the harsh realities of exploitation and abuse that stayed safely tucked away year after year in the dark corners of a company like Wendy’s supply chain can, and will, be brought to your company doorstep until you meet the challenge and take real action to address those conditions.