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Justice for Farmworkers: March urges Wendy’s to join Fair Food Program

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT
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Local migrant farmworker advocates are gearing up to raise awareness about farmworkers’ rights in Palm Beach County.

Silvia Perez from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is spearheading a march Saturday in Palm Beach County urging Wendy's to join in on the Fair Food Program.

“We have been protesting for seven years—protesting, and are marching to ask for a dialogue with Wendy’s, but they are not listening and are ignoring us,” said Perez.

The Fair Food Program works with coalitions and advocates to support farmworkers in the supply chain by addressing issues like unfair wages, neglect, and sexual assault.

A migrant worker from Guatemala, who did not want to be identified, says more farmworker protection is needed and this issue is close to her heart.

“Without them, the cilantro, the tomato and onions and all that is used in the kitchen and one eats would not arrive if it wasn't for the work of the migrants,” said the woman.

Natalia Naranjo, with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, says many of the largest fast-food companies joined years ago —and Wendy’s still did not participate.

“Our biggest push right now, is getting Wendy’s to publish and talk about where they are harvesting their tomatoes from,” said Naranjo. “Trying to get a clear idea whether or not they do have these cases of abuse. Whether or not there are these cases of modern-day slavery within the fields they are purchasing from.”

In a written statement, Wendy’s told WPTV that they do not participate in the fair food program, because there is no nexus between the program and their supply chain.

Wendy's says that they have established a supplier code of conduct adding, “....we also require third-party reviews related to the human rights and labor practices for suppliers of certain hand-harvested, whole, fresh produce such as tomatoes.”

STATEMENT FROM WENDY’S:

Wendy's does not participate in the Fair Food Program because there is no nexus between the program and our supply chain. Since 2019, Wendy's has sourced our North American tomato supply exclusively from indoor, hydroponic greenhouse farms, while the Fair Food Program predominantly operates in outdoor, conventional tomato growing environments. Further, Wendy's has an established Supplier Code of Conduct that applies to significant suppliers of The Wendy's Company and our North America restaurant system, and we also require third-party reviews related to the human rights and labor practices for suppliers of certain hand-harvested, whole, fresh produce such as tomatoes. The idea that joining the Fair Food Program, and purchasing field-grown, commodity tomatoes, is the only way that Wendy's can demonstrate responsibility in our supply chain is not true.

“Workers need to be recognized not as a commodity of production, but as persons,” said Lindsay McElroy.

McElroy is the Guatemalan-Maya Center Executive Administrative Assistant in Lake Worth Beach. She says longstanding farm labor concerns need to continue to be at the forefront.

“Oftentimes, there are wage theft cases. There are circumstances where people aren’t allowed to use the restroom when they need to. They don’t get water breaks,” said McElroy. “So, it’s very important that the people who nourish us and pick our food are treated as well as any other worker deserves to be treated.”

For details on Saturday's march, click here.

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