What do Joe Manchin, Donald Trump, and the Baconator have in common? Wendy’s Chairman Nelson Peltz. He’s the man standing between farmworkers supplying tomatoes to Wendy’s and unchecked labor abuses.
Launched in 2011, the Fair Food Program is a landmark labor initiative intended to protect farmworkers from widespread abuse. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers started the program that requires food, water, shade, and a reliable bathroom for farmworkers. Retailers like McDonald’s and Walmart have signed on to the initiative. They are required to terminate partnerships with farms that violate the program’s practices. Out of the four major fast-food giants, Wendy’s is one of the last holdouts.
“That’s the goal, to make sure every man and woman’s rights are respected, to stop modern-day slavery and forced labor,” says Nely Rodriguez, an organizer for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Antonia Rios is a farmworker who has been positively impacted by the program. Rios worked in the fields of Florida during her pregnancy. She feared snake and alligator attacks whenever she went to the bathroom. “It was really difficult for a woman in those conditions,” says Rios.
When Florida instituted the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s sought out tomato farms in Mexico. Harvesters there reported sexual harassment, employment of underage workers, and poor living conditions. While the fast food chain no longer purchases tomatoes from Mexico, Wendy’s has made limited efforts to stop workplace abuses. Instead, they moved their tomato harvesting to greenhouses in Canada and the U.S. but still refuse to join the Fair Food Program. Without a clear commitment to the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s has opened their supply chain to labor abuses.
As the chairman of their board and largest stakeholder in the burger empire, Peltz could solely push Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program. Until then, farmworkers intend to boycott Wendy’s. Their next stop? Peltz’s front door. In April, they will march through Palm Beach where Peltz’s has a mansion and his company, Trian Partners, has a multi-million dollar office space.