Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), representing millions, becomes the first major Christian denomination to endorse the Wendy’s boycott!


We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their longstanding struggle for fair labor practices in the agriculture industry …”

In an historic act of support, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moved last week to endorse the boycott of Wendy’s, becoming the first major Christian denomination to formally commit to carry forward the boycott until Wendy’s joins the CIW’s Fair Food Program!

Representing nearly 2 million Christians nationwide, the church has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the CIW since the earliest days of the Campaign for Fair Food.  Over the past several months as the CIW’s Wendy’s campaign evolved into a national boycott, the PC(USA) has worked to marshal its power and massive constituency to send an unmistakable message to Wendy’s: Fleeing from human rights is unacceptable.  And just two days ago, on May 11th, the church announced that the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board had made the PC(USA)’s support for the Wendy’s Boycott official.  From the Presbyterian News Service:

pcusa-logo.jpg“Rather than support Florida growers who uphold human rights under the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s switched its tomato purchases to Mexico, where the denial of human rights in the produce industry was well-documented in last year’s Los Angeles Times exposé,” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “This is unacceptable, especially from a company that has prided itself on using U.S.-made products. Therefore, the PC(USA) joins the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in calling on Wendy’s to sign a Fair Food agreement.” [Read the Presbyterian News Service Story in its entirety here]

Church leader Rick Ufford-Chase, Co-Director of Stony Point Center who served as Moderator of the PC(USA) from 2004-2006 — a period that spanned the height of the Taco Bell boycott and its jubilant conclusion with the signing of the first Fair Food agreement in 2005 — provided some perspective on the announcement:

“Wendy’s decision to move its purchasing away from US fields where workers’ human rights are protected to source instead from a Mexican supplier where a massive slavery case was exposed is flagrantly unconscionable and the church will once again take up the power of mass non-violent direct action through this boycott to demonstrate the immorality of Wendy’s decision and to demand the company uphold the human rights of the men and women who harvest its tomatoes.  This is a church that knows how to boycott and knows the power of the human rights advances we have accomplished together with the CIW over the last 14 years.  We will not rest until Wendy’s is part of the Fair Food Program.”

Indeed, matching words to action, Ufford-Chase was part of a protest and manager’s letter delivery just 10 days ago. 

A history of struggle for Fair Food

Longtime CIW friend and Fair Food leader Rev. Noelle Damico, a former national staff member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), speaks to press outside Wendy’s shareholder meeting in 2013 in New York City.

The PC(USA) has been a signatory on letters for more than a decade, urging Wendy’s to forge a Fair Food agreement with the CIW, and its members have marched and prayed since the CIW opened the Wendy’s campaign several years go.  From testifying at Wendy’s annual general meeting (above) to dropping off manager’s letters during the Month of Outrage, the church’s formal support of the boycott is an unambiguous and mighty message to the Wendy’s, the last fast-food holdout.

Farmworkers celebrate the Taco Bell agreement outside PC(USA) headquarters in Louisville, KY, in 2005.

But the church’s support for the Fair Food movement extends well beyond the Wendy’s campaign.  Indeed, the PC(USA) was among the first to endorse the Taco Bell boycott back in 2002, far before the Coalition had won agreements with now 14 corporations and before those agreements had made possible the implementation of the Fair Food Program.  The church’s unwavering support was catalytic, generating endorsements from many other religious denominations for the boycott over the years and dramatically expanding the base of committed consumers.  With its Louisville headquarters just across town from those of Taco Bell parent company Yum! Brands, the PC(USA) engaged executives, hosted massive rallies, animated and mobilized thousands of its members, and its representatives served as a guarantor of the CIW talks of that led to the first-ever Fair Food agreement in 2005.

By answering farmworkers’ invitation to work in partnership, the PC(USA) played a crucial role in the realization of the simple — but then seemingly improbable — vision cast by farmworkers: an agricultural industry free from abuse and exploitation.  Fourteen years and fourteen agreements with corporations later, the farmworker-designed Fair Food Program is transforming the day-to-day working conditions of tens of thousands of farmworkers — not only here in Florida tomato fields, where the Program began, but now also in Florida strawberries and in six northern states.  

“For so many years the PC(USA) has acted with fortitude and love in the Campaign– standing with us through thick and thin, speaking out consistently and courageously, and matching their words with deeds,” said CIW’s Gerardo Reyes Chavez. “Together, we know that it is not a matter of if Wendy’s will join the Fair Food Program, it is only a matter of when.  And with the church’s support, we hasten the inevitability of that day.”