CIW staff member Gerardo Reyes Chavez to Wendy's shareholders: "I also know first hand how necessary this Program really is. I first started working in the fields at age 11."

"Inside the Fair Food Program, things are different. Workers have the right to make complaints, and are protected from retaliation when they do. "

For the last decade, Wendy’s has had the opportunity to join its major competitors in being on the right side of history by joining the Fair Food Program, thus guaranteeing basic human rights for the farmworkers who make its profits possible.

Consumers across the nation, sympathetic to the plight of farmworkers in the nation's food industry, have called on Wendy’s to join. Hundreds of thousands of consumers have signed petitions calling on Wendy’s to join the Program, and at 2021's general stockholders’ meeting, shareholders issued a resounding 95% vote in favor of a resolution calling for the protection of workers in its food supply chain. 

Just last month, the New York City Council passed a resolution calling on Wendy’s to join the Program.  A delegation proceeded to deliver that resolution in-person to Trian Partners, an investment firm founded by Wendy’s chairman Nelson Peltz. This vote came after a 5-day, 50 mile march across Florida by farmworkers and allies who rallied in the hometown of Peltz, Palm Beach, to urge him to finally join.

And yet, at this year’s annual shareholder meeting on May 16, Wendy’s again failed to join the Fair Food Program – the same program that has, over a decade, delivered proven results for tens of thousands of farmworkers, preventing forced labor and winning a Presidential Medal for its unprecedented success in ensuring the basic dignity of farmworkers.

But before Wendy's turned its back once again the gold standard for human rights in its supply chain, the company's shareholders did have the opportunity to listen to a former farmworker and longtime CIW staff member Gerardo Reyes Chavez, who shared his story of toiling in the fields before helping to forge the Fair Food Program, which has transformed the fields on farms across the US and empowered tens of thousands of farmworkers to be frontline monitors of their own rights under its protections. We have included a full transcript of Gerardo Reyes’ speech to Wendy’s shareholders here below, so you too can read along as he lays out the parallel worlds that exist in agriculture today: the world of dignity and respect inside the bounds of the Fair Food Program, and the dark world that lurks just outside, a darkness which envelops hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, many of whom are essentially trapped in exploitative conditions on farms, and even some who are working in forced labor. 

Here is the full transcript of his speech to Wendy’s shareholders: 

“Good morning to all Wendy’s Board members, employees, and shareholders. My name is Gerardo Reyes Chavez, and I am with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-based human rights organization. Today, I am presenting shareholder Proposal Number 5 to amend proxy access, on behalf of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany NY, a long-term Wendy’s shareholder.

The proposal requests removing the Wendy’s stockholder aggregation limit and reducing the ownership requirements to a more achievable percentage that will change proxy access from a theoretical route to nominating director candidates to a concrete shareholder right. We believe it could promote the adoption of shareholder-supported best practices in corporate governance, even when there is opposition from insiders and sitting Board members with a significant ownership stake and influence in proxy voting outcomes.

farmworkers and allies carry the world illuminated partially by the light of the Fair Food Program, in a 5-day, 50-mile march across Florida in order to urge Wendy's to join the Program.

In 2021, a super majority of Wendy’s shareholders voted for a shareholder proposal calling for greater transparency into how the Company manages human rights risks in the supply chain. Following Wendy’s inadequate implementation of the proposal and response to these risks, and Proponents seek to hold the Board accountable. 

One example of a commonsense best practice to guard against the supply chain risk of forced labor and other abuses is to participate in the Fair Food Program. The Fair Food Program has been recommended by US Customs and Border Protection, the US Department of Labor, and it has even received a Presidential Medal. 

I also know first hand how necessary this Program really is. I first started working in the fields at age 11. Since I joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers more than 20 years ago, we have assisted with more than a dozen investigations and prosecutions of modern-day slavery involving farmworkers in the United States, one of which just concluded sentencing at the end of 2022 and where the Department of Labor named the large companies that had bought produce from a forced labor trafficking ring operating on farms in the United States.

Inside the Fair Food Program, things are different. Workers have the right to make complaints, and are protected from retaliation when they do. The Program also includes the only privately-enforceable COVID-19 and heat stress protections for farmworkers that we have seen in the world of social responsibility. 

The reason our Program works, and others do not, is really quite simple: it is backed by the binding purchasing commitment of 14 major brands. This includes McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and Yum Brands. But not Wendy’s, yet. We invite them to join us.

I hereby move Proposal 5 regarding proxy access amendments. The proponents encourage all Wendy’s shareholders to support this proposal to strengthen shareholder democracy, and for the company to implement the requested amendments.”




Release: National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), CIW Announce Trailblazing Partnership 

May 16, 2023

Dennis Parker, NCLEJ Executive Director: “We’re incredibly excited to work with the CIW to fight for humane wages and conditions for workers.” Lucas Benitez, Co-founder, Coalition of Immokalee Workers: “We’re honored to join forces with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice to fuel the expansion of Worker-driven Social Responsibility…” This just in!  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is joining forces with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), a leading civil rights and public interest legal organization, to provide legal and strategic support to the growing number worker and human rights organizations adopting the Worker-driven Social […]

Unsolved mystery: CNN, NPR investigations into disappearance of two local men in Collier County Sheriff Deputy’s custody bring new life to maddening cold case

May 8, 2023

Doug Molloy, former US Assistant Attorney: “It is my belief that they were killed because of their color.” “Lucas Benitez, a founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, likened police officers in Immokalee to the US Army occupying Iraq.” Around twenty years ago, two beloved sons and fathers — Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams — went missing in Southwest Florida. One, Felipe Santos, was part of the CIW family, brother-in-law to former CIW staff member Francisca Cortez.  Both were last seen alive in the back of former Collier County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Calkins’ police vehicle. The story of Felipe Santos and […]

“We are making history”: Week-long visit to birthplace of Fair Food Program by Chilean delegation helps fuel FFP expansion

May 2, 2023

“We are making history,” said Angel Garcia, Human Resources Manager at Pacific Tomato Growers/Sunripe Certified Brands.  “Now we have people coming from other parts of the globe to absorb that history.” “When I first heard about the Fair Food Program it was like – this blew my mind,” said Arlette Martinez of the Chilean Ministry of Labor and Social Provisions. “And we believe that better working conditions don’t just change a person’s life at work day-to-day, it makes a better world for [all of] us.” Tailwinds continue to grow behind the international expansion of the Fair Food Program, carrying the […]

John Oliver segment on farmworkers, Fair Food Program garners millions of views!

April 18, 2023

The latest segment on Last Week Tonight hosted by John Oliver focuses on the plight of farmworkers in this country, and champions the Fair Food Program as a successful model of human rights protection that can guarantee farmworkers their basic rights. So far, the YouTube upload of the segment alone has garnered over 2.5 million views, generating a small cascade of press and expressions of empathy and solidarity with farmworkers in their struggles for dignity. But what sets the in-depth segment apart from so many like it is its inclusion of a solution to the myriad problems facing farmworkers: the […]

Sign the petition to support farmworkers in their fight for freedom and dignity!

April 15, 2023


BREAKING: New York City Council officially — and resoundingly — calls on Wendy’s “to join the Fair Food Program and support farmworkers’ human rights”!

April 12, 2023

Yesterday, in the early afternoon, members of the New York City Council – representing over eight million residents of the vibrant Big Apple – gathered in historic City Hall in Downtown Manhattan.  In an overwhelming show of support, nearly 90% of the City Council adopted Resolution 131 calling on Wendy’s – and specifically, New York-based Trian Partners and Wendy’s Board Chairman Nelson Peltz — to support farmworkers’ human rights by joining the Fair Food Program.  Four full years after the resolution was first introduced by then-Councilmembers Brad Lander (now Comptroller of New York) and Mark Levine (now Manhattan Borough President), […]

Fair Food Program’s international expansion, cut flower partner Bloomia, featured in the industry press!

March 31, 2023

Flower Power Daily: “All it takes is one person in power to change the status quo and make it fairer.” Werner Jansen, Bloomia CEO: “If a company as large and successful as Bloomia can partner with a worker-driven social responsibility program like the Fair Food Program, there is no reason why the rest of the industry shouldn’t be able to meet that same gold standard for human rights protections in their supply chains as well.” Cut flower industry journal Flower Power Daily has published a wonderful feature piece detailing the U.S. Department of Labor’s $2.5 million grant to the Fair Food […]

Florida media highlights 5-day, 50 mile farmworker march from Pahokee to Palm Beach championing the Fair Food Program

March 28, 2023

WGCU: “Gonzalo… lived in fear of speaking up. But one day, it was just too much. She asked for some water.  She was told to drink from the ditch. This is why Lupe Gonzalo marches.” Palm Beach Post: “According to the coalition, ‘two parallel worlds exist side-by-side within the farming community: the world of freedom from abuse on farms in the program and the world of harsh exploitation outside its protections.’” The five-day, 50 mile March to Build a New World wrapped up on March 18 with a massive turnout of nearly 600 farmworkers and their allies in Palm Beach, where […]

DAY 5: Video report, media round-up from massive grand finale of March to Build a New World!

March 21, 2023

Democracy Now: “We’ve come here to demand that Publix and Kroger — which is directly connected to the situation of modern slavery in Pahokee; they bought watermelons from there — and Wendy’s, for them to join the Fair Food Program and put an end to the extreme labor abuses in this country,” Gerardo Reyes Chavez Fox News 29: “U.S. Rep Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who joined in the march, said: ‘We have to eat to stay alive and we should make sure these workers are paid fairly and in just conditions. This is about encouraging all our local merchants to participate […]

BREAKING: US Department of Labor press release on latest forced labor prosecution names buyers, including Fair Food Program holdout Kroger

February 6, 2023

  US Department of Labor press release: “Los Villatoros Harvesting LLC employed workers to harvest watermelons for Carlton Farms Inc., operating as Sun Fresh Farms Inc. in Wauchula, Florida, for sale to Walmart and Kroger locations. In Indiana, the employer provided crews for Cardinal Farms in Oaktown and Wonning Melons in Vincennes to pack melons for sale through a distributor to chains including Kroger, Schnucks and Sam’s Clubs… The prosecution is part of an investigation begun in 2017 by federal agencies in several states. Workers who escaped their unhealthy living and forced labor conditions first reported the violations to the Coalition […]