Wendy’s Can Run But Not Hide From its Responsibility to Workers
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has pulled Wendy’s out of the violent and abusive Mexican market for tomatoes. On June 5th, Wendy's announced at its annual shareholder's meeting a plan to scale back its tomato purchases from Mexico and instead purchases from greenhouses in the US and Canada. The move follows several years of journalistic exposés and intense campaign activity by CIW — including most recently a five-day fast by 100 farmworkers and consumers outside Wendy’s Board Chairman Nelson Peltz’s office in Manhattan — which spotlighted widespread and severe human rights abuses in Mexican agriculture. From forced labor to sexual violence, the conditions in Mexico's fields stand in diametric contrast with those under the award-winning Fair Food Program in seven US states, including Florida. Wendy's has now tacitly admitted that their position in Mexico was untenable.
But Wendy’s continues to run from its responsibility to the protect the human rights of the workers who pick its tomatoes, given that greenhouses have been proven to be no exception to labor exploitation. What now remains is the urgent need to expand the Fair Food Program to Wendy's greenhouse supply chain in the US and Canada. The FFP is an exemplar of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model which has repeatedly proven its unique efficacy in protecting workers' human rights in supply chains as diverse as garment factories in Bangladesh to dairy farms in Vermont. The FFP has dramatically improved conditions for thousands of workers on U.S. fruit and vegetable farms through its innovative package of worker-drafted standards, worker-driven monitoring, and market-backed enforcement. It is time for Wendy's to abandon its discredited and risk-laden approach of voluntary codes of conduct and social auditing and instead embrace the WSR model. This path will improve conditions for workers, generate positive outcomes for growers, and provide Wendy's consumers with the ethical assurances they demand.