PALM BEACH, Fla. — Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers were joined by supporters in Palm Beach Saturday for a march protesting Wendy's restaurants.
The group is protesting to urge Wendy's to join the Fair Food Program.
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.
The protest was held in Palm Beach because Wendy's board chairman Nelson Peltz is an island resident.
Natalia Naranjo, with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said 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 issued the following statement about their lack of participation in the program:
"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."
"Wendy’s says they can't join the Fair Food Program because none of their current suppliers participate in the program, but that's just a dodge," said Yaissy Solis with the Alliance for Fair Food. "Wendy’s could either come back to their longtime Florida suppliers (who they abandoned back in 2015 precisely because those farms joined the FFP), or bring its current greenhouse suppliers into the Fair Food Program, either way would work. It's really very simple."
"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."