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.