Disciples News Service

Watkins joins voices for farm workers

Mr. Emil Brolick, CEO
Wendy’s International, Inc.
1 Dave Thomas Blvd.
Dublin, OH, 43017

May 28, 2014

Dear Mr. Brolick:

Nine years ago, as the CEO of Taco Bell, you pioneered a partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Florida growers that set in motion a new paradigm for human rights and corporate social responsibility.

For three years, the Fair Food Program has been in operation in over ninety percent of Florida’s 650 million dollar industry and the changes have been as comprehensive as they are breathtaking.  While for generations the Florida tomato industry was plagued by poverty wages, wage theft, sexual harassment and, in extreme cases, forced labor, those abuses are now not only being eliminated, but their root causes are being addressed through the Fair Food Program (FFP). The Program has been lauded by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the White House for its innovation, impact and sustainability, and has gained global recognition for the groundbreaking transformation it is creating in the fields through a unique collaboration. 

Twelve corporations have joined the Fair Food Program, agreeing to pay a penny-per-pound premium to their Florida tomato suppliers that is passed on to workers through the growers’ regular payroll process, and to purchase only from growers that uphold the Fair Food Code of Conduct. The largest global retailer, Wal-Mart, joined in January of this year and four out of five of our nation’s leading fast-food restaurants are already participating.

But not Wendy’s.  Instead Wendy’s has tried to give consumers the impression that it supports the changes achieved through the FFP while in fact continuing to do business as usual.  By refusing to join its competitors in paying the penny-per-pound premium, Wendy’s gains an unconscionable cost advantage over the rest of the fast-food industry leaders. By refusing to commit to buy its Florida tomatoes only from growers complying with the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s perpetuates the old, “no questions asked” market for those growers unwilling to recognize the FFP’s human rights standards. 

We are perplexed and alarmed at Wendy’s posture on this issue of basic human rights. 

The call for society to recognize that our lives are intertwined, that our decisions and actions impact one another, and that we have a moral responsibility to ensure human well-being is as ancient as the command, “love thy neighbor.” 

The time is now to answer that call.  Perfect what you pioneered nine years ago.  Lead Wendy’s to be part of the common good we are building together as consumers, farmworkers, growers and buyers by joining the Fair Food Program.  

Sincerely, 

Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President, National Council of Churches, USA
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Harriett Jane Olson, General Secretary and CEO, United Methodist Women
Ervin R. Stutzman, Executive Director, Mennonite Church USA
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America
Brian D. McLaren, author, speaker, blogger
Shane Claiborne, author, activist, founder of The Simple Way
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice
Rev. Lindsay C. Comstock, Executive Director, National Farm Worker Ministry
Nico Gumbs, Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry
James Ennis, Executive Director, Catholic Rural Life
Dianne Aid, TSSF, President, Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque, Iowa
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Co-Director, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and Coordinator, Poverty Initiative, Union Theological Seminary
Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Chair of the Social Justice Commission of the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities