Nearly 10,000 petition signatures supporting boycott delivered to Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor by UU General Assembly!


Unitarian Universalists from across the country hold lively picket, deliver boycott petition at Wendy’s Headquarters…

From the very first day of the national Wendy’s Boycott back in March, the Unitarian Universalist community has been on the front lines of the growing fight for farm labor justice in the fast-food giant’s supply chain, launching an online petition to gather support for the boycott and joining farmworkers for actions across the country.  And just a few short weeks ago, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee officially endorsed the boycott, representing hundreds of thousands of UU members nationwide.

And all that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Last week, the annual UU General Assembly was presented with a unique opportunity:  Its national gathering happened to be taking place in Columbus, Ohio, home, by happy coincidence, to Wendy’s corporate headquarters.  With nearly 10,000 petition signatures in hand, over 50 participants from the General Assembly — along with some local friends from Ohio’s vibrant Fair Food community — headed over to Wendy’s for a lively protest and delegation.


The action, planned in conjunction with UUSC, UUA, and CIW/AFF, sought to amplify the exciting news of the boycott endorsement for the 4,000+ attendees at the General Assembly as well as Columbus residents.  Along with the UUSC, the driving force behind the action, the participants hailed from an impressive variety of organizations: the UU Association, the UU Ministry of the Earth, the UU Women’s Federation, Standing on the Side of Love, UU Equal Access, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio Fair Food, the Central Ohio Worker Center, and members of other faith groups in the area.

Before the action, leaders from the UUSC, UUA, and Central Ohio Worker Center and Ohio Fair Food took to the floor outside Wendy’s to say a few words.  Among them, of course, was Rev. Allison Farnum of Fort Myers, a Fair Food preacher if there ever was one!  She first shared a powerful statement from Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UU Association:

The Unitarian Universalist Association joins with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and our partners, in calling for Wendy’s to finally join the Fair Food Program.  This Program, which other major fast food chains have signed onto, helps ensure fair treatment and fair wages for their workers.  Wendy’s is the largest fast food chain in America that is yet to sign onto the Fair Food Program.  Instead of serving ethically harvested tomatoes, Wendy’s has actually shifted its tomato supply to a Mexican company that was prosecuted for inhumane working conditions just a few years ago.

As people of faith and conscience committed to seeking justice for all, we remain in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  Unitarian Universalists are demonstrating today to show Wendy’s and companies like it that we care deeply about the working conditions of its suppliers, and we will not spend our money on food that perpetuates human rights abuses in the name of cost savings.  We will boycott Wendy’s until it makes the right decision to support ethical business practices and acknowledge the inherent dignity of all workers.

Naturally, Rev. Farnum added her own beautiful reflection:

And luckily, the preacher got the mic… so I wanted to share from my own experiences as someone who has been accompanying the Coalition since I came down for the my first call ever to ministry in Fort Myers, Florida.  I can’t tell you what an honor and a privilege it has been to accompany this amazing group of people.  First of all, it is an organization that is worker-led, and they have created a global phenomenon that has been recognized by the United Nations, by the White House, in teaching worker-led, worker-driven social responsibility.  We cannot rely on corporations to define what social responsibility is. We must have workers at the table.  And so the table is not set by a corporation or some powerful entity.

Instead, it is set by the spirit of love, and it is the corporations who must do that work to come to that table.  And it is a table where the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is waiting and inviting every corporation to come on board to the Fair Food Program, which is a feast that is for all.  

Another note on these notions of solidarity and intersectionality.  In Fort Myers, we had a vigil on Saturday honoring the grief and the pain and the suffering we feel over the massacre in Orlando.  I saw there my friends from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the ally organization, the Alliance for Fair Food.  I was moved by their show of solidarity.  They have shown up in places of solidarity because they know that suffering anywhere must be ended and that their suffering is not more important than anyone else’s.  And so we’re invited to understand the intersectionality that is right here among us.  We’re invited to understand that as we embrace justice and the work of justice, it is to be in solidarity wherever there is suffering and injustice.  We have friends from all over who are coming together in this place, that we might again feel hopeful for our future: A Fair Food future.  Amen.”

Her words were followed by a rousing call to boycott from Rev. Bill Shulz, president and CEO of the UUSC, who then kicked off the picket:

You know, Wendy’s’ slogan is Quality is Our Recipe. But Wendy’s is the only major fast food restaurant to refuse to commit to join the Fair Food Program, to pay a fair wage, and not exploit workers in their supply chain.  McDonalds has done it – why not Wendy’s?  Burger King has done it – why not Wendy’s?  Taco Bell has done it – why not Wendy’s?  Subway has done it – why not Wendy’s? Wendy’s’ slogan ought not be Quality is Our Recipe – it ought to be Exploitation is Our Recipe!  Oppression is Our Recipe!  Slavery is Our Recipe!  Wendy’s, as you’ve heard, is buying tomatoes from a supplier who is notorious for its abuse of workers. The Los Angeles Times said that Wendy’s supplier treats its vegetables better than its workers.

… So Unitarian Universalists call upon all good people of Columbus and around the nation to stop buying Dave’s triple hamburgers, stop buying Dave’s double hamburgers, stop buying Dave’s single hamburgers, don’t buy anything at Wendy’s – nothing! — until the company stops exploiting workers because Justice is Our Recipe!  Justice is Our Recipe and the ingredients are fair wages, decent working conditions, and an end to workplace slavery.

With that, the scores of faith leaders and local Fair Food activists kicked off a lively picket in front of Wendy’s, armed with homemade signs and high spirits:


A small group, including CIW’s Julia de la Cruz, Senior Program Leader for Justice Building at UUSC Rev. Paul Langston-Daley, Rev. Barnaby Feder of Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, and other representatives of the Alliance for Fair Food (pictured below) attempted to deliver their package of petition signatures of UUSC members gathered over the course of the past several months to Todd Penegor, incoming CEO.  Rev. Langston-Daley sent along a direct account of the experience:


A hundred yards away, a large red wall with a huge image of Wendy, with her red, turned up braids and smiling face, greeted at the entrance of the building…  A staircase dominated the space to the far right and behind it was a large wall covered with writing, which listed the Wendy’s Company’s values for all to see. Lettering in large, red, capital letters, said: “DO THE RIGHT THING.” Above that phrase, in smaller text we were told: “QUALITY IS OUR RECEIPE” and “GIVE SOMETHING BACK.” Below that, partially obscured by the translucent railing was the phrase, “TREAT PEOPLE WITH RESPECT.” I found the irony palpable.


As we approached the desk, the receptionist smiled a somewhat guarded half-smile and asked if she could help us.  We told her we were there to drop off an envelope with more than 8,500 petition signatures and a letter for the new incoming CEO urging Wendy’s to sign on to the Fair Food Program.  I asked if Lisa, the Executive Secretary might meet us to receive the letter.  We were told, politely, that Lisa was in a meeting.  The representatives from CIW explained to the receptionist, our purpose and we thanked her for calling upstairs. 

While the visit was uneventful as we were simply told the information would be passed along, we are hopeful that an opening for dialogue exists as their new CEO, Todd Penegor, takes the helm and that a meeting will be arranged with representatives from CIW and UUSC to further urge the Wendy’s Company to do what’s right, and sign the Fair Food Program.

Following the General Assembly, thousands of passionate, committed UU members returned to their respective communities in towns and cities across America.  And as they make their way home, we have no doubt that they will be carrying the Wendy’s Boycott with them in their hearts and prayers, ready to take the fight to Wendy’s restaurants in their home towns, and to help spread the word, until the fast-food giant finally, and inevitably, comes to the table.