Farmworker women to Wendy’s CEO: “Sexual violence has been our daily bread for decades”…

CIW Women’s Group pens powerful letters to Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor & Board Chair Nelson Peltz to educate company leaders on farmworker women’s struggle against sexual harassment and assault in the fields, request meeting to discuss sexual violence against women in Wendy’s supply chain face-to-face;

Penegor and Peltz’s response to date?  Two weeks of silence, and counting…

Also: CIW puts final touches on impressive “Harvest without Violence” mobile exhibit as workers in Immokalee and Ohio allies prepare for next Monday’s big action at Wendy’s headquarters!

Two weeks ago, the CIW Women’s Group sent a letter to Wendy’s CEO, Mr. Todd Penegor, and another to Wendy’s Board Chairman and major shareholder, Mr. Nelson Peltz, on their efforts to end sexual violence against women in the country’s agricultural industry.  At a time when coverage of sexual harassment and assault against women in Hollywood is bringing much-needed national attention to the issue, the epidemic of gender-based violence in the fields remains largely overlooked in the national dialogue on this generations-old problem, despite the unconscionable dimensions of its scope:

In their letters to Wendy’s top leaders, the Women’s Group cites the “abhorrent conditions” faced by women in agriculture, writing:

… Day in and day out, four out of five farmworker women are at least subjected to vulgar comments and jokes by crew leaders and fellow workers, and all too frequently find themselves pulled to the edge of the field by a crew leader demanding sex in exchange for necessary work.

The  Women’s Group letters go on to underscore the importance of Wendy’s participation in the Fair Food Program, and put forth a request for an in-person meeting ahead of the CIW’s “Harvest without Violence” visits to Ohio and New York City in October and November:

… Because it is easy to lose sight of the often dramatic personal impacts of a social accountability campaign, we would like to share our individual experiences with you during an in-person meeting.  We truly believe you may see the FFP in a different light if you hear how fundamentally it has changed our lives, and those of countless other women.

The letters also address Wendy’s shift of purchases from Florida, where the Fair Food Program’s protections have largely eliminated sexual harassment and assault against farmworker women, to Mexico, where those abuses, and more, remain rampant and go unchecked, despite Wendy’s claims that its code of conduct ensures the fair treatment of workers there:

… You and we both know that even fewer protections exist for women farmworkers in the Mexican industry to which Wendy’s has shifted its tomato purchases. Considering the structural, deeply-embedded nature of that reality, you and we also both know that Wendy’s supplier code of conduct will do nothing to change the daily barrage of unchecked sexual violence that farmworker women face in Mexican agriculture.

At the time of this post’s publishing, the CIW has yet to receive any response whatsoever — whether to accept or decline a meeting with the Women’s Group, or even to acknowledge receipt of the letters — from either Mr. Penegor or Mr. Peltz.   As such, the CIW Women’s Group plans to deliver their request, in person, to the company’s headquarters in Dublin, Ohio on October 23; and to Trian Partners, the investment firm overseen by Mr. Peltz, in Manhattan on November 20. (If you’ll be in either city on those days, mark your calendar to join the farmworker women in support of a harvest without violence!)

You can read the letters to CEO Penegor and Board Chair Peltz in their entirety here and here.

Meanwhile, in Immokalee…

Meanwhile, the Women’s Group and CIW staff have been hard at work in Immokalee for the past month finalizing the exciting new “Harvest without Violence” mobile exhibit.  The one-of-a-kind interactive educational tool, which will be making its debut in Columbus in the week ahead, exposes the daily barrage of sexual harassment and assault faced by farmworker women both in the US and in Mexico, a human rights crisis that has proven to be both far more prevalent and often more violent than for most any other group of women in the country.
But just like the Fair Food Movement as a whole, the Harvest without Violence Exhibit does not stop at decrying the problem.  After learning about the dire circumstances of farmworker women — a horrifying reality baked into the food that is served on dinner tables and at restaurants across the country — visitors turn a corner, and learn of the remarkable transformation of the East Coast agricultural industry through the Fair Food Program (right).
Finally, the powerful culminating section of the exhibit walks the viewer through the history of the Campaign for Fair Food and the Wendy’s Boycott — including, of course, the myriad ways to take action and join the movement for Fair Food, right there on the spot.
The final piece of the exhibit is a unique — and uniquely moving — quilt assembled by CIW Women’s Group members that captures the hope, fierce determination, and unwavering vision of a future where all workers enjoy dignity and respect in the workplace, that have been the driving force for the Fair Food movement’s remarkable success to date, and the even greater progress still to come:
The exhibit will be touring college campuses and community centers this fall, and will be the centerpiece of major actions in Columbus and New York City, as workers from Immokalee and their allies around the country turn up the heat on Wendy’s to join the fight against gender-based violence in the fields and join the Fair Food Program.  Don’t miss it!