At the Wendy’s shareholders’ meeting last month, twenty of the most prominent religious leaders from a spectrum of faith traditions across the country —representing millions of people of faith — stepped to the fore, publishing a letter to CEO Emil Brolick, calling on him to “lead Wendy’s to be part of the common good.” Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Chrisi USA was one of the signatories. The letter is below…
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…