Will Aussies welcome Wendy’s after learning about its morally suspect human rights record?

Hundreds of farmworkers and consumers march in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 2, 2022, to demand Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program and help end modern-day slavery in the fields.

As Wendy’s sets its eyes on expansion to Australia, the fast-food chain’s reputation as a human rights laggard precedes it, making waves Down Under…

The Brag Media: “… several high-profile cases of what has been called modern-day slavery on farms in the US and Mexico have demonstrated exactly why accountability is needed for corporations who seek to further exploitation at any chance they can.”

In recent months, Wendy’s has declared its intention to expand its quick-service burger business to Australia.  But even before securing its first franchisee in the Lucky Country, news has been traveling far and wide about Wendy’s disregard for farmworkers’ human rights and the unchecked abuse and exploitation taking place in the North American agricultural industry outside the Fair Food Program.

In an excellent article by Australian news outlet The Brag, which every month reaches over 20% of the Australian population, Wendy’s is put to shame for its failure to commit to the Fair Food Program’s best-in-class protections for farmworkers — an injustice the people at The Brag find especially galling given the rise of modern-day slavery cases in agriculture. Indeed, this year alone, Wendy’s has come under intense scrutiny by farmworkers, consumers and the company’s very own shareholders over its lack of supply chain transparency and its suspicious silence on the issue of whether Wendy’s can guarantee there is no forced labor in its supply chain. Below is an excerpt from the breaking story: 

American fast food chain Wendy’s is coming to Australia

America’s fast food chain, Wendy’s, is attempting to expand into Australia and is looking for its first franchisee.

The US burger chain has set its eyes on Australia,  joining other fast-food chains in attempting to expand into the down under. The brand is currently the world’s third largest fast-food burger chain with roughly 7000 outlets worldwide. […]

[…] Wendy’s has come under fire in the states recently for failing to join the Fair Food Program, which was launched in 2011 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to, “ensure workers are involved in enforcing, monitoring, and designing programs to protect workers in their workplaces through the food supply chain, relying on partnerships between workers, growers, and retail buyers to raise wages and adhere to workplace standards.”

Many of Wendy’s main competitors have joined the program at least a decade ago.

The heat on Wendy’s had seen a recent resurgence as several high-profile cases of what has been called modern-day slavery on farms in the US and Mexico have demonstrated exactly why accountability is needed for corporations who seek to further exploitation at any chance they can.

“We’ve spent over seven years calling on Wendy’s to join this program that every single one of their competitors has been a part of for a decade, and their response to date has been to refuse to commit to join the program and ignore the voices of farmworkers,” said Cruz Salucio, a farm worker in Florida and staffer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). “Farm workers marched with the simple question for Wendy’s. And that question is, ‘can you guarantee there isn’t slavery in your supply chain?’ Unfortunately, because there’s no transparency, we haven’t been able to be sure that is not the case.”

You may ask, why be so tight lipped about an issue that should be of the highest priority for a company that purports to be a leader in social responsibility? 

Maybe the fast-food chain is hiding something it doesn’t want its consumers and shareholders to know about its produce supply chain. And, unfortunately, until Wendy’s commits to the Fair Food Program’s unparalleled monitoring and transparency, consumers will justifiably question whether human rights atrocities are taking place on the farms in that supply chain.  

But as more time passes, even more conscious consumers – from the U.S. to Australia – will be questioning Wendy’s decision to turn its back on tackling the issue of modern-day slavery in the agricultural industry by standing alone among its fast-food peers in refusing to join the Fair Food Program. Stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks from the Wendy’s Boycott campaign!