“Why not put your name by all the others?…”

[hupso_hide][hupso title=”.@CNBC, @JaneWells grills @Wendys CEO on refusal to commit to the #FairFoodProgram” url=”http://ciw-online.org/”]

Social Responsibility Live!  CNBC reporter grills Wendy’s CEO on refusal to commit to the Fair Food Program during live interview after Twitter-verse demands answers…

(jump ahead to the 2:58 mark to watch Question #4 on the Fair Food Program)

There is no escape these days for Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick from one simple question: Why won’t Wendy’s sign an agreement with the CIW and join the Fair Food Program?  

From shareholder meeting showdowns, to massive marches through the company’s hometown of Dublin, OH, to open letters from religious leaders across the country demanding real social responsibility from the hamburger giant, Wendy’s is coming under increasing pressure to join the rest of the fast-food industry and sign on to the most progressive, most effective human rights standards in the US agricultural industry today, the CIW’s Fair Food Program.  And Emil Brolick, the company’s CEO and point man on this particular topic, is looking more and more uncomfortable each and every time he is forced to answer the question with the same stale, public relations double-speak. 

Yesterday, Mr. Brolick found himself once again called upon to perform his awkward talking points two-step, this time on live TV, thanks to overwhelming demand by consumers through Twitter.  Ahead of her Wednesday interview with Mr. Brolick, CNBC Host Jane Wells turned to the wide world of Twitter for questions she might want to ask the head of one of the country’s largest fast food burger chains:

And just like that, the #FairFoodNation sprang into action.  Among the countless tweets and re-tweets, here are a few highlights from supporters, hailing from Florida to Ohio:

With such overwhelming support, the Fair Food question made the cut and was put to Mr. Brolick in the interview, filmed behind the counter of a Wendy’s restaurant.  Here again is the interview in full, but you may want to skip ahead to the 2:58 mark, where Ms. Wells asks her question about the Fair Food Program (which is prefaced, we should say, with the words “and I got a LOT about this“…):

You’ll note that Ms. Wells wasn’t content to allow Mr. Brolick to get away with his stock answer and slide to the next question.  Instead, she pressed him again, asking: “So why not put your own name there with the others?”  If Wendy’s is in fact “supporting the Fair Food Program” in their Florida tomato purchases, why not make the commitment real by signing a Fair Food Agreement?  

Sadly, Mr. Brolick had already exhausted his talking points on the issue and her follow-up was met with an even emptier version of the same tired answer.  

Turns out Frosties and breakfast sandwiches aren’t the only things on the minds of Wendy’s customers, and burgers weren’t the only thing on the grill yesterday at one Wendy’s restaurant!  In the twenty-first century food industry, it is no longer possible to dismiss human rights issues as if they were only passing public relations crises.  Communication is no longer a one-way street — the role of Twitter in this particular instance is a perfect example of that new reality — and complex questions about grinding, generational poverty, sexual harassment, and forced labor in your company’s supply chain will not go away with facile answers and talking points.  Sooner or later, Wendy’s and Mr. Brolick will finally get that message and we will be spared this sort of insulting public relations pablum in response to real issues of human dignity.  One can only hope — for workers’ sake, and for Wendy’s sake — that it be sooner rather than later. 

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the Wendy’s front later this week…