New York City Should Send a Message to Wendy’s, Which Refuses to Protect Its Farmworkers

September 25, 2021

When the country’s largest fast food companies were pressured to step up to combat sexual violence, forced labor, and other human rights abuses in their supply chain, they all eventually agreed — except one.

After years of pressure, Wendy’s still refuses to follow its peers and join the Fair Food Program to protect farmworkers and uphold their human rights. But the movement to get Wendy’s to take this basic step is gaining momentum. It’s time for the New York City Council to pass a resolution introduced over a year ago calling on Wendy’s to join the program as a necessary support for farmworkers’ lives.

The City Council resolution is part of a campaign that has included years of organizing and work by people across New York and around the country — farmworkers, consumers, activists, students, religious leaders — standing against the power imbalance between major corporations and farmworkers and the abuses that can result. The campaign has included a consumer boycott, and protests including a five-day hunger strike and march in Manhattan.

Even investors are getting on board: in April, a group representing $1 trillion in assets under management, including the Office of the New York City Comptroller, released a letter amplifying the campaign’s demands and drawing attention to the widely-publicized failures to protect worker safety throughout Wendy’s supply chain. Convened by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, these investors emphasized the dire conditions farmworkers have faced nationwide during the global pandemic, and the Fair Food Program’s unique binding and enforceable COVID-19 safety protocols on farms within the Program, directly challenging the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Brown and Black essential workers.

Activists and investors alike can see that the conditions faced by agricultural workers do not reflect our values. Many workers face poverty, sexual harassment, and forced labor. Around the time the resolution was introduced to the City Council, the Council’s Women’s Caucus outlined its support, calling particular attention to the ways that farmworkers face gender-based violence. Caucus members described how sexual violence “has been a scourge in U.S. agriculture for decades with a staggering 80 percent of women farmworkers reporting having experienced sexual harassment and assault on the job.”

Both the investors’ and the Women’s Caucus letters are addressed to Nelson Peltz, who is both the Wendy’s Board Chairman and Chairman of Trian Partners, a hedge fund that is Wendy’s largest institutional shareholder and is based in New York City. A resolution from the City Council is essential in order to send a strong, united message to the corporate entity that holds the key to enacting this necessary change.

Read the full story by Ruth Messinger on Gotham Gazette.