“We are here to say, no more hamburgers from Wendy’s! We will buy no more!”
After years of attempts to negotiate with the Wendy’s Restaurant Corporation, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has said they give up. They are not attempting to negotiate with Wendy’s anymore and on Thursday March 3, 2016 in New York, the group called a boycott.
“What Wendy’s is doing is unethical, unjust, and immoral,” said Reverend Michael Livingston Executive Minister at New York’s Riverside Church announced over loudspeaker, “It offends God. Wendy’s has got to learn, it can’t run away from the Fair Food Program.”
The boycott announcement came during the CIW’s annual event targeting corporations that have refused to sign their Fair Food Agreement. The agreement calls for among other conditions, fair and safe working conditions in the field, a halt to sexual harassment, and a penny per pound more in wages that would boost tomato pickers to minimum wage.
A march took place beginning at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Marchers carried signs that read, “OLD FASHIONED EXPLOITATION”, a play on Wendy’s trademark slogan, “Old Fashioned Goodness.” The group marched down Park Avenue to the office of Nelson Peltz, Wendy’s Board Chair.
“Wendy’s and Nelson Peltz don’t know who they are up against,” announced longtime CIW organizer Gerardo Reyes to the crowd of supporters who stood outside of Peltz’ offices, “We are Immokalee workers, and yes we might be poor, and we certainly will never have millions or billions of dollars like you, but we have something more powerful that is something you will never have, the power of people united!”
“We are bringing this fight to Wendy’s because Wendy’s we need your help,” announced Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and now president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights who along with her mother Ethel have organized with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for years, including marching with the CIW through marches across Florida arriving at other locations that have refused to sign onto the Fair Food Agreement such as the Publix Grocery Chain of Florida, “We are here to say, no more hamburgers from Wendy’s.”
Lupe Gonzalo, organizer with the CIW, “Eleven years ago the Coalition won its first agreement with Taco Bell. Since then the changes we have won in the tomato industry and for all workers who are harvesting in those fields have really changed things. Wendy’s has not only refused to sign an agreement with the farm workers, They are running away. They decided to buy tomatoes in Mexico where there is still so much exploitation. Wendy’s profits from the poverty of these workers who still face slavery, sexual violence, and child labor.”
Gerardo Reyes criticized the practice too citing the worse protections that Mexican farm workers face in Mexico, ”Yet they choose to purchase there. As workers we are here to say to Wendy’s, “That is the worst decision you could have made.” We are here and we are going after Wendy’s in this boycott with everything we have.”
Gerardo Reyes began working in the fields of Immokalee as an orange harvester but later worked in the tomato fields and has seen the difference the work of the organization has made, “As a result, we have seen one of the most profound transformations that the agricultural industry has ever seen. One would think with all of the agreements that have happened, that corporations would no longer need this type of pressure to recognize the humanity of workers in their supply chain. Sadly, that is not the case.”
Boycotts are not a common tactic in recent history in the US farm worker movement. The last one called by the CIW was in 2001 against Taco Bell that saw success four years later when the corporation signed onto the Fair Food Agreement.