New York City Council Members: “Wendy’s, New Yorkers expect better.”

New York City Council Member Mark Levine addresses hundreds of farmworkers, New Yorkers, and supporters from across the Northeast during the “What are you hiding, Wendy’s” March on November 18, announcing the introduction of City Council Resolution 1156 urging Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.

New York City Council Members Mark Levine, Brad Lander, and Helen Rosenthal introduce resolution calling “on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and support farmworkers’ human rights”!

Live in New York? Email your City Council Member TODAY to urge them to support Resolution 1156!

Last week, over 500 farmworkers, their families, and supporters from across New York City and the northeast marched through the heart of Manhattan to the hedge-fund offices of Trian Partners, Wendy’s largest shareholder.  As chants of “Boycott Wendy’s” thundered down Park Ave., Council Member Mark Levine rose to the mic to exclaim, “Bienvenidos!” and announce that members of the Big Apple’s City Council were calling “on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and support farmworkers’ human rights”!

Indeed, with this move, New York is adding to the momentum generated by several other major cities across the U.S that passed powerful resolutions this past spring calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.  These City Councils represented regions which included major universities housing Wendy’s – Ann Arbor, MI, Gainesville, FL, and Carrboro, NC — and whose residents took to the streets to support Wendy’s boycott actions when the CIW’s “4 for Fair Food” Tour visited their hometowns.

In a statement, Council Member Mark Levine, hailing from District 7 in Manhattan, underscored the sponsoring members’ support for basic human rights for the men and women who harvest our food:  “New Yorkers believe farmworkers harvesting the food we eat should labor in humane and respectful conditions. That’s why I, along with Council Members Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal, have co-sponsored a City Council resolution urging Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.  The great city of New York is home to many Wendy’s restaurants throughout the five boroughs and is the only major fast-food chain to not participate in the Fair Food Program.  Wendy’s, New Yorkers expect better.” 

In the weeks leading up to the action on the 18th, farmworker leaders and allies met with City Council Members to educate them on the power and potential of the Fair Food Program, winning the Council Members’ support for the ongoing Campaign for Fair Food and Wendy’s Boycott.  In addition to meeting with the resolution’s sponsors, the Fair Food team met with the New York City Women’s Caucus, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, and Councilman Ydonis Rodriguez, all of whom expressed their support for the Fair Food Program and the national Wendy’s Boycott.

Councilman Ydonis Rodriguez (center, left photo) and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (center, right photo) stand with farmworker leaders and show their support for the Wendy’s Boycott.

On the heels of the resolution’s introduction, faith leaders from across the city swiftly drafted a letter to support its passage, calling on local council members to do their part and join the effort to urge Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.  Here are just a few highlights from the powerful missive:

We write to you as concerned clergy from across NYC, representing a wide range of faiths and institutions, and as supporters of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Our faith traditions call us to build a world of human rights and justice, and to serve as allies to those building a better world. Therefore, we urge the New York City Council to pass the resolution before it, calling on Wendy’s to support farmworkers’ rights by  joining the Fair Food Program…

…Many of us have visited Immokalee and seen firsthand the real changes that the Fair Food Program has made in the lives of farmworkers since it was implemented in 2011. Others of us have marched alongside CIW, demanding justice for farmworkers, or welcomed CIW members to speak in our congregations. And in 2018, some of us fasted for five days alongside CIW outside of Trian’s offices, urging the company to end sexual violence in their supply chain once and for all by joining the Fair Food Program. Unfortunately, nearly two years later, Wendy’s and Trian have refused to be part of writing a new chapter of rights and respect in U.S. agriculture that is being realized by tens of thousands of farmworkers laboring on Fair Food Program farms stretching from Florida to New Jersey along the Eastern Seaboard.

But as Dr. King famously said, the time is always ripe for doing good. We urge the New York City Council to pass this resolution without delay, and to join with us as we march alongside CIW on November 18th. After all, justice is all our business. 

And you can show your support, too!  If you are in New York City, email your local City Council Member to encourage them to support the newly-introduced Resolution 1156 in support of the Fair Food Program!

Here below, in full, is Resolution 1156, currently on the table before New York’s City Council:

Res. No. 1156

Resolution calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and support farmworkers’ human rights.

By Council Members Levine and Lander

Whereas, In 2011, the Fair Food Program (FFP) was created by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in an effort to bring together farmworkers, consumers, major food retailers and growers to achieve humane labor standards and better wages in United States agriculture; and  

Whereas, The FFP works by having “Participating Buyers” of farm produce agree to purchase covered produce, mainly tomatoes, only from “Participating Growers”; and

Whereas, These Participating Growers are farms that meet strict standards required by the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which was designed by farmworkers themselves and is independently monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council, that include certain requirements for farmworkers, such as the right to work free from sexual harassment and assault; safe and non-abusive working conditions including shade, water and clean bathrooms in the fields; the ability to report mistreatment or unsafe conditions without retaliation; know-your-rights trainings; access to breaks and safe transportation to work; and

Whereas, In addition to certain labor standards, Participating Buyers pay Participating Growers a small premium on the purchased produce, known as the “Fair Food Premium,” which goes to supplement farmworkers’ regular paychecks; and

Whereas, To solidify these partnerships, the FFP and thus, the Fair Food Code of Conduct, are backed by legally-binding agreements between the CIW and many of the world’s largest produce buyers, such as McDonald’s and Subway, with farms that fail to comply with these standards facing risk of suspension from the FFP and losing the ability to sell their produce to Participating Buyers; and

Whereas, As the CIW has established that there is an underlying imbalance of power between farmworkers and corporations, it has focused its efforts on engaging with large corporations at the top of the agricultural supply chain to become Participating Buyers; and

Whereas, Currently, the FFP’s Participating Buyers include Walmart, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Trader Joe’s, Burger King, Subway and McDonald’s; however, there still exist corporations that do not participate in the FFP and thus, may not ensure farmworkers are provided basic protections and fundamental human rights in their work; and

Whereas, The popular and large fast-food corporation Wendy’s is one such company that has yet to join the FFP, having faced considerable criticism and protests over its refusal to participate, with a number of cities passing resolutions urging Wendy’s to join the FFP and advocating for the boycott of Wendy’s, according to the New York Times; and  

Whereas, In New York City, Wendy’s has locations throughout the five boroughs, including nine in Brooklyn and 10 in Manhattan, and is one of the only major fast-food chains to reject the opportunity to join the FFP; and

Whereas, In March 2018, over 100 farmworkers and supporters fasted for five days outside the Park Avenue offices of the hedge fund investment firm, Trian Partners, one of the largest shareholders of Wendy’s, calling on the fast-food company to join the FFP, with over 2,000 New Yorkers joining in protest through midtown Manhattan on the last day of the fast, according to the CIW; and

Whereas, In New York State, and thus, New York City, there are a substantial number of farmworkers, as a September 2018 New York State Comptroller report indicates that New York State’s more than 35,000 farms generated $4.8 billion in revenue in 2017, accounting for up to 80,000 farmworkers within the state; and

Whereas, In New York City, specifically, there are approximately 31 farms located in all boroughs except for Manhattan, according to a March 2015 New York State Comptroller report; and

Whereas, In addition, there are 530 GreenThumb registered community gardens and 735 registered public school garden projects in New York City, according to the 2018 New York City Food Metrics Report required pursuant to Local Law 52 of 2011; and

Whereas, As New York has a large number of farmworkers, encouraging Wendy’s to join the FFP would ensure that farmworkers that provide produce to Wendy’s are provided with the benefits, wages and work conditions that they deserve; now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and support farmworkers’ human rights.