Campaign launched against fast food giant
Earlier this month a coalition of farmworkers, religious leaders, students, and consumer groups lead by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) launched a boycott of Wendy’s, the world’s third largest hamburger chain.
The boycott was called after Wendy’s refused to join the Fair Food Program (FFP). The FFP is a social responsibility program that has won recognition from the White House to the United Nations for its unique success in addressing decades-old farm labour abuses.
All of Wendy’s major competitors in the fast-food industry – McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell and Chipotle – have already joined the Fair Food Program.
Those that have signed up to the FFP agree to purchase exclusively from suppliers meeting a code of conduct, including a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and sexual harassment. Participants also pay a "penny-per-pound" premium that is passed down through the supply chain and paid to farmworkers by their employers.
Positive impacts of Fair Food Program
According to campaigner Sue Sturgis, since the Fair Food Program launched in 2011, participating buyers have paid over $20 million in premiums to farmworkers. Last year the program expanded beyond Florida to tomato fields in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey. This year it's growing beyond tomatoes to include two other major Florida crops: strawberries and bell peppers.
In a statement, CIW’s Cruz Salucio stated, “Ten years ago, we sent a letter to Wendy’s asking them to follow Taco Bell’s example and work with us to protect farmworkers’ fundamental human rights in their supply chain. They refused then, and they continue to turn their backs on farmworkers to this day."
The group says that Wendy's has been dodging its commitments to workers rights, and rather than support US growers who have signed up to the FFP, Wendy's took its tomato purchases to Mexico, where workers rights issues are far worse.
Lack of protection from abuse
In addition the company also released a code of conduct that according to campaigners, "represents the very worst of the traditional corporate approach to social responsibility driven by public relations concerns rather than the verifiable protection of human rights."
“Of course, in light of the Fair Food Program’s unparalleled success in eliminating longstanding human rights violations in the fields, it is preferable at this point for companies looking for solutions to abuses in their supply chains to come to the program of their own volition. By now, protests and boycotts should be no longer necessary,” said Lupe Gonzalo of the CIW.
She continued, “But when companies like Wendy’s remain so stubbornly stuck in the past, committed to a path of empty public relations promises over real human rights protections, we are left with no choice. The Campaign for Fair Food is prepared to mobilize consumer action in support of real worker-driven social responsibility, and we will prevail, because more and more, transparency and food justice are becoming the hallmarks of the 21st century food market."
The Wendy's campaign marks only the second time the CIW has called a national boycott. The last one, against Taco Bell, lasted four years — and resulted in parent company Yum Brands signing on to the Fair Food Program in 2005.
Read more about the fast food industry in the UK.
This story has been added to our corporate database. The database powers all our live product guides, giving the score for each company on our rankings tables. Find out more about how we rate companies.