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Wendy’s: the boycotted fast food chain arriving near you

As the brand opens restaurants across the UK, we outline the reasons why workers in the US are calling for a boycott.

US company Wendy’s, founded in 1969, has 6,000 restaurants in 29 countries around the world. It began expanding in the UK in 2021 and now has branches in over a dozen UK cities. Wendy’s might soon arrive in your local area, if it hasn’t already.

Why is Wendy’s being boycotted?

Boycotters have targeted the company since 2016, because it refuses to sign up to a programme that has been proven to improve the rights of agricultural supply chain workers.

Forced labour, anti-union violence, discrimination, sexual assault and endemic violations of wage laws were all common in the farming sector for workers in Immokalee, Florida, for many years up until the turn of the century. The majority of workers were seasonal migrant labourers: a population that is transitory and highly vulnerable to exploitation from employers.

In 2001 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW: a Florida-based farmworkers organisation) launched a programme for transformative change in the region. The programme “encourages retail food companies to reverse the impact of their enormous economic leverage by agreeing to only purchase from suppliers who meet fundamental human rights standards and to pay a small premium to help improve farmworkers’ falling incomes.” The Fair Food Project (FFP) is a legally binding worker-driven social responsibility programme that ensures fair wages, safe working conditions, and a voice for workers in the supply chain.

The programme received a US Presidential medal for its “extraordinary effectiveness combating human trafficking” and Harvard Business Review called it “one of the most important social-impact stories of the past century”.

Big brands like Subway, Taco Bell, and McDonald’s have all signed up to the FFP after campaigns calling on them to do so. But Wendy’s refuses to get on board.

Why does Wendy’s refuse to sign up to the programme?

Wendy’s refuses to sign up to the programme, despite the latter's success in improving conditions for workers, and despite all its major competitors signing up.

In response, Wendy’s says it “does not participate in the Fair Food Program because there is no nexus between the program and our supply chain,” but the Coalition of Immokalee Workers says that it should either switch supplies to those used in the Fair Food Program or bring their current supplies into the Fair Food Program.

How to support the Wendy’s boycott in the UK

The CIW says that Wendy’s has failed to take responsibility for its supply chain and has shown little interest in improving conditions for workers, and has instead shifted its tomato supply chain to Mexico where substandard working conditions and wages are widespread.

You could email your nearest branch or leave a one-star review on their Facebook page, saying “Wendy’s is subject to a boycott call because it hasn’t signed up to the Fair Food Program in the US. I won’t be eating at your restaurant until you support workers’ rights!

Find out more on the Boycott Wendy's website.

Since 2021 Wendy’s has started expanding and opening branches across the UK, in the following locations:

  • Brampton Hut
  • Brighton
  • Camden
  • Croydon
  • Kingston
  • Lincoln
  • Maidstone
  • Oxford
  • Reading
  • Romford
  • Sheffield
  • Stratford
  • Sutton
  • Uxbridge

Find alternatives to Wendy’s

Our guide to fast food chains has alternatives you may want to consider before going to Wendy’s, plus we have a guide to restaurant chains

We also have a shopping guide to delivery companies which includes rating several food delivery services like Just Eat and Uber Eats.

Recent mega-march against Wendy's

From 14-17 March 2023, over 100 farmworkers and allies marched shoulder to shoulder from Pahokee [home of Florida's most recent federal forced labour case] to Palm Beach, Florida, where Wendy’s board chairman Nelson Peltz lives.

By the last day, nearly 600 people were taking part in the colourful march. The CIW says the march shows “the urgent need for these holdout corporations to do their part to end forced labor and other long standing human rights abuses in the fields.”