With the Wendy’s shareholders’ meeting in NYC just around the corner, the pressure is rising on the final fast-food holdout…

Head of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), farmworker mothers, pen letters to Wendy’s calling on the hamburger giant to do the right thing ahead of next week’s national actions

Before joining Wendy’s in September of 2011 as President and CEO, Emil Brolick served for several years as CEO of Taco Bell. It was during his tenure with Taco Bell, in 2005, that he became the first food industry executive to sign a Fair Food agreement with the CIW.

At that time, Brolick had some very encouraging words for the the nascent partnership in the joint press release announcing the agreement:

“As an industry leader, we are pleased to lend our support to and work with the CIW to improve working and pay conditions for farmworkers in the Florida tomato fields,” said Emil Brolick, Taco Bell president.

“We recognize that Florida tomato workers do not enjoy the same rights and conditions as employees in other industries, and there is a need for reform. We have indicated that any solution must be industry-wide, as our company simply does not have the clout alone to solve the issues raised by the CIW, but we are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution,” Brolick added. read more

He concluded his remarks at the time by underscoring the need for others to follow Taco Bell’s lead and join in partnership with the CIW, saying, “We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.

On the heels of that announcement, Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the time, also issued a statement expressing his hope that the groundbreaking agreement would spread throughout the fast-food industry:

“I call upon all members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to immediately cease boycotting Taco Bell and to join with the CIW and Yum Brands in advancing the gains for human rights made today throughout fast-food industry.”

As Rev. Kirkpatrick’s statement indicates, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) played an important public role in the campaign to bring about the first-ever Fair Food agreement, and it has played an important role ever since, as the Fair Food movement has continued to spread throughout the fast-food industry… with one key exception: Wendy’s, the final fast-food holdout, today under the direction of Emil Brolick.

And in an echo from Mr. Brolick’s not-so-distant past, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — a post occupied today by the Rev. Gradye Parsons (below), who replaced Rev. Kirkpatrick in 2008 — sent a letter this week to Wendy’s CEO urging him to “sit down with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers without delay and discuss how Wendy’s can become a part of the Fair Food Program.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Mr. Emil Brolick, CEO
Wendy’s International, Inc.
One Dave Thomas Blvd.
Dublin, OH 43017

Dear Mr. Brolick:

As you know, for more than a decade our church has been steadfast in our support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the sustainable, comprehensive advances in human rights and corporate responsibility made possible through the Fair Food Program.  Currently eleven corporations, the vast majority of Florida tomato growers, and farmworkers are collaborating to bring about measurable and significant advances in human rights for farmworkers.  But Wendy’s is missing.  And we are puzzled. […]

Presbyterians across the nation patronize Wendy’s and believe, as Wendy’s does, in sustainable, “honest ingredients.”  But surely one of those honest ingredients must be tomato pickers’ human rights.

I urge you to sit down with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers without delay and discuss how Wendy’s can become a part of the Fair Food Program.  Your leadership is needed now more than ever.” read more

Will history repeat itself? Will the Emil Brolick of 2013 make good on the words of Emil Brolick, circa 2005?

Here are a few points to consider as Wendy’s ponders the question before it today:

  • The Campaign for Fair Food has only grown stronger since the last time Emil Brolick put his leadership on the line and signed the first-ever Fair Food agreement.
  • Since that time, the Fair Food Program has sprung to life, as well, its remarkable success catching the attention of everyone from the White House to the United Nations.
  • With all its major competitors squarely on board, Wendy’s can’t complain about being put at a competitive disadvantage by paying the penny-per-pound premium. If anything, Wendy’s is actually deriving a competitiveadvantage today by refusing to pay the premium and continuing to profit from farmworker poverty while all other major fast-food companies are paying their share to end decades of farm labor degradation.

The logic for Wendy’s to join is indisputable. The decision, once again, is in Emil Brolick’s hands. How much longer will Wendy’s hold out and prolong the inevitable, while public pressure on the hamburger giant continues to mount?

Mothers’ Day is a day of action in Immokalee…

We shall see, but if the members of the CIW’s Women’s Group have anything to say about it, the answer will be a resounding: Not long!

On April 27th, women in Immokalee gathered for a beautiful, joint celebration of Mother’s Day (a bit early) and Children’s Day (closer to the date, but still a bit early, too) that boasted both a homemade piñata and — more importantly — a powerful message from the remarkable mothers of Immokalee. While the children were happily occupied making more traditional Mother’s Day letters for their moms, the women put pen to paper themselves to draft their own letters… to Wendy’s. Here below are a few of the many letters written that day that will be delivered to Wendy’s during the shareholder meeting in New York on the 23rd:

“On Mother’s Day, we are sending this letter to ask you to support the Fair Food Program. We are mothers who pick tomatoes for you each day. If you are conscious of the effort that we make as women and as mothers, then you must support this program, so that we may have the right to work free from sexual harassment, and to bring bread to our tables with dignity, so that our children can have the life they deserve. As mothers, we worry about our families — and we hope that you do, too. Do the right thing for the workers of Immokalee.”

“We are extending an invitation to this company that offers an old-fashioned flavor — her name is Wendy’s. Wendy’s, we want more than a good taste in your food: we need you to share our table with dialogue and justice, offering human thanks for all of us, the women, by eliminating abuses within the workplace. Therefore, today, on Mother’s Day, we invite you to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the voices of the 11 other companies that have already joined us to bring dignity to our lives […] and together with you, the taste of justice can be even better.”

“I am a woman worker in the fields, and I pick all kinds of vegetables — mostly tomatoes. I’m asking you to please join the Campaign for Fair Food, so that you can contribute your grain of sand by paying the penny per pound […] because our work is as important to us as it is to you.”

As we promised back in April, plans for a major action in New York have been in the works for weeks. On May 18th, the March on Wendy’s will hit the streets of New York City, while several other major actions will be taking place as well between the Big Apple and the heart of Wendy’s operations in Ohio. Following next week’s action, Fair Food activists will gather in NYC again for the big shareholder action on May 23rd!

In just a few short weeks, buses will be pulling out of Washington, DC, Boston, Providence and Philadelphia to join allies in New York. Check out the flyer and more info on the action(not to mention the delicious food and gathering with the CIW that will come after!) if you think you might be able to join the Fair Food Nation in action starting next week.