Old fashioned is right!…

It’s time for Wendy’s to join the rest of the fast-food industry in the 21st century and support the Fair Food Program!

Join consumers from across the country in the coming weeks as they call on Wendy’s to partner with the CIW in advancing the human rights and dignity of farmworkers in its supply chain!

2005, Taco Bell. 2007, McDonald’s. 2008, Burger King. 2009, Subway. 2012, Chipotle.

What about Wendy’s?

With one glaring exception, the top five fast-food companies in the world have joined the Fair Food Program, paying a penny-per-pound premium on the tomatoes they purchase from Florida growers and requiring their suppliers to meet the more modern, more humane labor standards contained in the Fair Food Code of Conduct.

Why not Wendy’s?

Well, it’s certainly not because we didn’t ask. Between the CIW and the Alliance for Fair Food, we sent no fewer than five letters to Wendy’s CEO’s between 2007 and 2013, asking the hamburger giant to “meet as soon as possible… to discuss how your company can become a leader in socially responsible practices that ensure the human rights of farmworkers in your supply chain.” You can see an example here. We even visited Wendy’s shareholder meetings in 2010 and 2011 to ask in person.

What was Wendy’s answer?

To the letters, nothing. And to the shareholder questions, pretty much the same thing, just in actual words. According to National Economic and Social Rights Initiative representative who asked the question on behalf of the CIW at the 2011 meeting in New York City (on far right, above), “the main points were that they have been aware of the Campaign for several years, they have their own corporate responsibility program that already covers the issues, but they are taking it under consideration.” In short, nothing.

So ignorance is certainly no explanation for Wendy’s absence in the Fair Food Program. In fact, here’s the kicker… Wendy’s new CEO Emil Brolick is the last person who could claim ignorance of the Campaign for Fair Food, because before Mr. Brolick was President and Chief Executive Officer of Wendy’s, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of none other than Fair Food pioneer Taco Bell during the entire 4-yr boycott! Mr. Brolick ran Taco Bell from 2000-2006, then stayed in various leadership positions at Yum Brands, ending up as Yum’s Chief Operating Officer before moving to Wendy’s in 2011.

What has Wendy’s been doing then, if not stepping up to the same ethical purchasing practices for its Florida tomatoes that its competition has adopted?

“A Cut Above”…

According to a recent company press release, the hamburger leader “is in the midst of a comprehensive transformation to contemporize the brand…” What does that mean, exactly?:

“We are improving the total customer experience, with bold restaurant designs, fresh product innovation, more engaging advertising and digital media advancements,” said Emil Brolick, President and Chief Executive Officer. “The transformation is already resonating with consumers and we’re building momentum, especially with our Image Activation restaurants that position our brand as ‘A Cut Above’ the competition… This is a very exciting time for Wendy’s.” read more

Bold restaurant designs, fresh product innovation, more engaging advertising, digital media advancements… everything except joining the rest of the fast-food industry in meeting the highest ethical purchasing standards in the US produce industry today in the Fair Food Program.

Wi-Fi, or Social Justice?

Wendy’s calls this new direction “A Cut Above.”

If you ask us, Wendy’s new initiative isn’t so much some kind of ultramodern cut above the competition as it is plain old undercutting the competition on ingredient prices to get an edge in the bottom line. By saving money on tomato prices compared to McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, and Chipotle, Wendy’s can invest in upgrades to its restaurants, instead. Why help improve the wages and working conditions of the desperately poor farmworkers who pick your tomatoes if you can put “lounge seating with fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi and digital menuboards” in your restaurants, and get away with it?

Buying tomatoes no questions asked isn’t “contemporizing your brand,” it’s cheapening your brand, especially when everyone around you is investing in social responsibility and supporting the program a recent Washington Post op/ed called “a brilliant model” and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day.”

Turning your back on long-overdue social justice is the very definition of old fashioned, of doing business as usual. It’s time for Wendy’s to get on board with the historic changes underway today thanks to the Fair Food Program.

It’s time for action

And to help them get on board, consumers in the Fair Food Nation are going to Wendy’s across the country, delivering letters starting today all the way through Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day! With 25 delegations currently planned and the numbers swiftly growing, it promises to be a powerful first step of many to bring Wendy’s up to date.

To join them, check out our resources page for the manager letter, and feel free to email us at organize (at) sfalliace.org to find out how you can get more involved!

2005, Taco Bell. 2007, McDonald’s. 2008, Burger King. 2009, Subway. 2012, Chipotle.

Let’s make 2013 Wendy’s year.