Ohio Media Round-up! Wendy’s takes a hit in hometown newspapers…

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Ohio papers spotlight Fair Food demands at Wendy’s shareholder meeting!


They say the best things come in threes, and so to round out our coverage of Wendy’s 2014 shareholder meeting — following last week’s exciting first-hand report from inside the meeting, and this week’s open letters to Wendy’s leadership from some of the country’s most important religious leaders — we bring you act three of this Fair Food drama: the media round-up.  

Never one to miss out on the action, the Examiner’s pre-meeting article, “Farmworkers, consumers to demonstrate outside Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting” (May 27), covered the bubbling anticipation in Dublin before the arrival of the shareholders on May 28.  It also gave a pretty thorough summary of the Wendy’s campaign in Ohio to date, and so we include it here in full:

05ae9b6a0be695cb285fff3626cc264b“We are fighting to improve the wages and working conditions for farm workers,” said Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) organizer Gerardo Reyes after a screening of the film Harvest of Empire​​​​​ at Studio 35 on Saturday. “If the market is creating poverty in communities like ours, the market has a responsibility to work with us to fix it.”

On Wednesday, May 28 at 9 a.m., clergy, students, and residents of Columbus and Dublin will join the CIW for a demonstration outside the 2014 Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting at the company’s corporate headquarters, 1 Dave Thomas Blvd in Dublin. Together, they will call on the Dublin-based burger giant to join its fast food competitors in supporting the Fair Food Program, a groundbreaking collaboration that has won praise from the White House to the United Nations for its unique success in addressing decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation’s trillion-dollar food industry.

“As a Dublin resident and adoptive mother, I used to think highly of Wendy’s,” said Professor Nancy Powers, a member of Ohio Fair Food. “But Wendy’s refusal to participate in a proven solution to abuses like sexual harassment in its supply chain does a great disservice to both its consumer base and its shareholders. Wendy’s brand modernization campaign will remain uncredible if the company has not first made the commitment to support a more modern, more humane agricultural industry.”

At a press conference outside of last year’s Wendy’s stockholder meeting in New York City, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and President of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights, denounced the corporation’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program. Since then, scores of protests have taken place around the country, including an 800-person march through Dublin to Wendy’s Headquarters in March 2014. Meanwhile, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, joined the Fair Food Program in January.

“Through the Fair Food Program, we’re seeing the human rights transformation of an entire industry, affecting tens of thousands of workers,” said Gerardo Reyes. “Wendy’s continues its unconscionable refusal to participate in this proven solution to abuses in its supply chain, while shamelessly claiming to pay a premium on its Florida tomatoes and purchase them exclusively from suppliers participating in the Fair Food Program.

“The truth is, Wendy’s is not paying the Fair Food Premium, and the company refuses to commit to suspending purchases from growers who violate the Fair Food Code of Conduct, the very obligation that has made the Program successful.”

800+ marchers stream through downtown Dublin during the Now is the Time Tour in March 2014
800+ marchers stream through downtown Dublin during the Now is the Time Tour in March 2014

Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), McDonald’s and Wendy’s — only Wendy’s is not participating in the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick was the President of Taco Bell in 2005 when that chain became the first corporation to commit to upholding farm worker rights. He stated at the time, “We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution,” adding, “We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.” Nine years later, under Brolick’s leadership, Wendy’s has refused to join the program.

The Fair Food Program was heralded in the Washington Post as “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” and in a White House report as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” for combating modern-day slavery. Since 2011, participating buyers have invested more than $15 million into the Fair Food Program, supporting the first significant pay increase for workers in over 30 years.

Ohio Fair Food is a growing state-wide network of Ohio residents, students, people of faith, workers, and concerned consumers who lead the Campaign for Fair Food in Ohio.

After CIW representatives and Ohioans had their say on May 28th, the Examiner followed up with another article, covering the tense back and forth from inside the meeting — and providing some more strong words from the faith community! — in Fair food advocates urge Wendy’s shareholders to support farm worker rights”:

399ff23040da0936ec7e860d94402aa1On Wednesday about 70 protesters greeted shareholders arriving at the Wendy’s corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ohio for the company’s annual meeting of stockholders. The protesters chanted and held signs, urging Wendy’s to support fair pay and safe working conditions for farm workers by joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers‘ Fair Food Program.

One of many Jewish leaders across the country who support the CIW, Rabbi Misha Zinkow of Temple Israel in Columbus called on Wendy’s “to work with the CIW and the Florida tomato industry to address the sub-poverty wages and human rights abuses faced by farm workers who pick their tomatoes.”

For the past 30 years farm laborers in Florida have been subjected to stagnant wages, violence, and sexual harassment, Rabbi Zinkow said. “We know that some progress has been made, thanks to a partnership between farm workers, tomato growers, and 12 leading food corporations. The Fair Food Program is building a new tomato industry that advances human rights and the dignity of farm workers,” he said.  read more

Finally, the Columbus Dispatch, the state capital’s paper of record, also took note of the growing frustration with the hometown fast food giant, issuing a its own report on the dust-up in Dublin:


Protesters urge Wendy’s to join Fair Food tomato labor pact

Sixty protesters chanted outside Wendy’s Co. headquarters yesterday morning during the company’s annual shareholders meeting, pushing for the fast-food chain to join the Fair Food Program, a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers and a dozen tomato retailers.

Inside Wendy’s headquarters, Gerardo Reyes of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers joined with Dublin resident Nancy Powers and Ohio State University student Sara Stanger to present their case to CEO Emil Brolick and Wendy’s shareholders.

Media were not permitted to attend the meeting.

The Fair Food Program covers a number of workplace issues, including pay, worker health and safety, complaint investigation and other labor issues.

Since 2005, 90 percent of the tomato industry in Florida has joined the program, Reyes said, including four of the top five fast-food chains — Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell and McDonald’s — as well as Wal-Mart.

Wendy’s hasn’t signed on to participate in the Fair Food Program because its tomato suppliers in Florida already have, Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said.

“The tomato-harvester employees work for our suppliers, and we expect our suppliers to appropriately pay them — and the suppliers have signed the Fair Food agreement,” Bertini said.

“The program only works with the support of the buyers,” Reyes said.

In review:  The farmworkers who harvest Wendy’s tomatoes have spoken.  The consumers who eat at Wendy’s from coast to coast — and, most importantly, in Wendy’s home state — have spoken.  The leaders of many of the largest faith communities in the United States, representing tens of millions of people, have spoken.  Even Wendy’s hometown paper has spoken.  

And every single one of them has the same, simple question: Why not?  Why not join the “best workplace monitoring program in the country”?  Why not step up to the human rights standards that every other major fast-food company in the country has adopted?  Why not stop profiting from farmworker poverty and help end farm labor abuse once and for all?  

We all — workers, consumers, religious leaders, and the media alike — are waiting.  And there’s only one right answer…