You can run, but you can’t hide from Fair Food! Part II…

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Rabbinic delegation visits Wendy’s Chairman Nelson Peltz at his Park Avenue office, demands answers on human rights and the Fair Food Program…


Last week we brought you the story of a live TV interview that took a surprising turn when CNBC reporter Jane Wells decided to grill Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick on why the company continues to thumb its nose at human rights and refuse to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program.

Today we bring you a report from a recent visit by a delegation of rabbis and rabbinical students to the Manhattan offices of Trian Partners, the “activist investment firm” run by Mr. Nelson Peltz and his partner Peter May.  Trian is Wendy’s largest shareholder, and Mr. Peltz is the Chairman of Wendy’s board of directors, while Mr. May serves as Vice Chairman (you may remember Mr. Peltz from his brief exchange with the CIW’s Gerardo Reyes at the Wendy’s shareholder meeting back in May).  The delegation chose to visit Trian last week because Mr. Peltz has been ignoring their repeated requests for a meeting to discuss Wendy’s apparent disregard for human rights.

The rabbis, led by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, have been nothing if not persistent.  First, 36 rabbis from across the country — all of whom have themselves visited Immokalee to see firsthand the unprecedented changes taking place in the fields — sent a private letter to Mr. Peltz, requesting a meeting.  After waiting for weeks in vain for a response, they published their letter to Mr. Peltz on Human Rights Shabbat in early December, and rabbis around the country led rousing public actions in 15 cities to mark the occasion.  This past month, the rabbis re-published the letter yet again, and shortly thereafter finally received their first reply — a rote recitation of Wendy’s public relations pretexts for refusing to join the Fair Food Program.  The letter concluded with a rejection of the rabbis’ call for a meeting with CIW.  

Far from deterred, over a dozen rabbis, rabbinic students, and supporters headed over to Trian Partners to demand a meeting with Mr. Peltz in person.  

After arriving at the towering skyscraper that houses Trian Partners — a building replete with all the trappings of Wall St. wealth and power — the determined delegation headed up to the 41st floor…


to ask if Mr. Peltz would be available to meet with them…


Naturally, the delegation was told he was not available — and neither was his partner, Peter May, nor any other member of the company.  So the rabbis left a letter with the receptionist, reiterated their demand for a meeting, and turned to head downstairs to the waiting Fair Food supporters.  But much to their surprise, just as they filed into the elevator, who happened to walk by but none other than… Nelson Peltz himself.  The delegation quickly turned on its heels and approached the receptionist again… 


… but it seems that they weren’t quick enough.  The Chairman of the Wendy’s Board and multi-billionaire known for his aggressive and confrontational style somehow managed to elude the rabbis and take refuge in the safe confines of his private offices.

Rejected but not dejected, the delegation returned outside to Trian’s Park Avenue entrance for a high-energy action, with music, singing, and chanting.  Dozens of New Yorkers read the group’s flyers, and three women who worked in the building itself told the protesters that they would head up to Trian Partners to urge them to support the CIW.  Here below are a few pictures from the energetic action:




Accompanied by the ever-upbeat Rude Mechanical Orchestra (pictured here below)…


… the rabbis also sounded the shofar (a ram’s horn trumpet used in Jewish ritual) for justice for farmworkers:


The lively group even came up with a new chant:

It’s a shanda! (Yiddish for disgrace or scandal)
It’s a shame!
Wendy’s is the one to blame!

Clearly, Wendy’s leaders are beginning to feel the heat from increasing public scrutiny of the company’s decision to turn its back on the Fair Food Program, a program lauded on the front page of the New York Times as the “best workplace monitoring program” in the US.  And that’s as it should be.  

As long as Wendy’s continues to profit from farmworker poverty while its fellow fast-food competitors do their part to end decades of exploitation and abuse in the fields where they buy their tomatoes, Wendy’s leaders will face more and more pressure to justify their decision.  And while they can continue to run, in they end they will find that they cannot hide from the Fair Food Nation.