Wendy’s Week of Action (August 3-11) has begun!

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As part of their annual conference last week in Los Angeles, over 100 leaders from Rooted in Community, the national grassroots network that empowers young people to take leadership in their own communities, “delivered a letter to the manager of Wendy’s asking them to come to the table to discuss paying more money per pound so that farmworker families can live safely and honorably” (from the Rooted in Community Facebook page)

From the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to the Treasure Coast of Florida and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Fair Food Nation is rising up to demand that restaurant giant Wendy’s sell not just fast food, but Fair Food!

The national Wendy’s Week of Action is upon us, and the Fair Food Nation is gearing up for a major late-summer storm of protests, pickets, and manager visits.   With excitement building in the nascent Wendy’s campaign, some Fair Food communities couldn’t even wait for the week to start to launch their own protests, while others have put together an impressive agenda of actions for week ahead.

Meanwhile, in response to the growing pressure to step up to the industry-leading human rights standards of the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s remains recalcitrant, and is doubling down on its misleading — and remarkably anachronistic — talking points.

Couldn’t wait for the Week of Action to begin!…

Like the youth leaders pictured above at a Wendy’s protest last week in Los Angeles (on a side note, we are looking forward to sharing a video from their huge, joyous action in a Week of Action wrap up report before long!), some Fair Food communities around the country got a headstart on the Week of Action.  In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, nearly three dozen Valley activists gathered for the “RGV Wendy’s Justice Tour,” where they visited 11 Wendy’s restaurants in the southern most part of the Lone Star state and delivered over 100 signatures from “the SEIU TX (San Antonio), Texas Civil Rights Project (Statewide), La Union del Pueblo Entero (Hidalgo County, TX), and the Workers’ Committee of Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center (Rio Grande Valley).”  Here’s a quick first-hand report from the Tour:

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‘Farmworkers put food on our table, we appreciate their hard work, they should be paid fairly’ stated Laura Sutherland of the South Texas Civil Rights Project.  We agree and took this message to customers and managers throughout the Rio Grande Valley as we split into two delegations, passing over 200 leaflets, talking to 11 managers and finding many surprises such as a woman eating in Brownsville who has two brothers working in Immokalee.

The Rio Grande Valley has a long history of being a hub for migrant workers who travel all over the U.S. so solidarity from residents and customers came very naturally, especially since many were active in the farmworker movements in the 70s and 80s.

We will continue to stand with farmworkers and their allies to demand Wendy’s quit clowning around and sign on to the Fair Food Program with the CIW.

Much more to come…

But the action in the Wendy’s Week of Action will not be limited to LA and the RGV, not by a long shot.   Those actions just got the ball rolling.  In the week ahead, it’s going to keep on rolling, through towns like Providence, RI, Philadelphia, PA, and, of course, Columbus, OH.  But not just there.

In Louisville, KY, home of the national offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — and the place where the historic Taco Bell boycott came to a successful end back in 2005 — a major action is planned for this Saturday at a local Wendy’s restaurant, and the Presbyterian Church is all in when it comes to supporting the Fair Food Program.  Here’s an excerpt from a press release issued by the PC (U.S.A.) on the upcoming action:

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The Rev. Noelle Damico speaks in support of the Fair Food Program at a press conference outside the Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting on behalf of the Presbyterian Hunger Program earlier this year.

Presbyterian Church (USA) has joined the effort to get the fast food giant Wendy’s to join a program meant to improve the rights of agricultural workers. However, Wendy’s told The Christian Post that the company does business with suppliers who respect farmworker rights and the protest is nothing new.

Members of PC (USA) will join other groups Saturday to hold a nationwide demonstration against Wendy’s in the hopes of encouraging the Dublin, Ohio based company to sign on to the Fair Food Program (FFP).

Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the PC (USA), said in a statement that FFP “is a social responsibility program that ensures humane treatment and increased pay for Florida tomato pickers.”

“At its most basic, the Fair Food Program is about loving our neighbors as ourselves; respecting them, treating them with dignity and working together with them to ensure our common well-being,” said Parsons. “We are dismayed that Wendy’s has yet to join this proven program and we appeal to CEO Emil Brolick to embody the resolve and foresight he demonstrated while president of Taco Bell when it became the first corporation to sign a fair food agreement with the CIW in 2005.”

 And in a perfect reflection of the breadth of the Fair Food movement, our friends on Florida’s east coast — Treasure Coast Fair Food — are meeting the energy of the youth organizing in LA that started off this post with their own indomitable spirit and adding it to the Wendy’s Week of Action mix.  Check out an excerpt from the Action Alert they prepared for their Week of Action protest:

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Saturday August 10, 2013 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM 
WENDY’S RESTAURANT, 1790 SW ST. LUCIE WEST BLVD., PORT ST. LUCIE, FL 34986  (map)

! ACTION ALERT !

Surf’s up, time to ride the waves of action for change! Grab your boards or in this case – your signs! Beach, Blanket, Bingo! party theme. Wear your flip-flops if you dare and your fave beach shirts and board shorts/capris or sundress. Wear your Wayfarers or Cat-eyes, sunscreen and fave sun hat or ballcap…

BRING: A Wendy’s Letter to the Manager (available for printing below), marching signs and car window signs, red umbrellas, lunch money, your family AND as many friends as you can!

The Fair Food Nation is in full force this week, and all Wendy’s can muster in response is the same tired public relations smokescreen they issued back in June following the shareholder action.  Here’s what Wendy’s spokesperson Bob Bertini has to say, from the article in the Christian Post on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s protest plans:

“Because of our high standards, we pay a premium to our tomato suppliers in Florida. In turn, we expect them to take care of their employees. The harvesters do not work for us,” said Bertini. “Importantly, all of Wendy’s tomato suppliers in Florida have signed and abide by the Fair Food Program agreement, which helps ensure safe and proper working conditions.”

Bertini directed CP to a webpage on the Wendy’s site titled “Supply Chain Practices” which among other things outlined the chain’s opposition to the CIW’s demands.

“CIW demands we make payments to employees of the companies who supply our tomatoes from the Immokalee area in Florida — even though they are not Wendy’s employees,” reads the entry. “We believe it’s inappropriate to demand that one company pay another company’s employees. America doesn’t work that way.”

Since this is the same public relations nonsense, almost word for word, as the company’s statement back in June, we won’t take more time here to unpack just how misleading this statement truly is.  Instead, we’ll just refer to you our post in response to the original statement, which you can find in its entirety here.  

We’ll close today with an excerpt from that response:

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The logic — if that word can be used — behind the statement as a whole is so convoluted as to be almost incomprehensible. But the twist that truly sets the Wendy’s statement apart is found in this stand-alone paragraph:

“We believe it’s inappropriate to demand that one company pay another company’s employees. America doesn’t work that way.”

First of all, the Fair Food Program doesn’t work that way, either. For our answer to the explicit premise of this particular passage — that the CIW is calling on Wendy’s to pay another company’s employees — see response #1 above. Wendy’s can have its own opinions, but it can’t have its own facts.

But, as to its implicit premise — that the Fair Food Program itself is somehow un-American — well, that is a matter of opinion, and on that we are simply going to have to agree to disagree (once we ultimately sit down to hammer out a Fair Food agreement, that is).

We would submit that there is nothing more “American” than social reform. Yes, slavery was American, but the Abolitionist movement ultimately proved to be more in keeping with the fundamental promises on which this country was founded than did that brutal institution of exploitation. Yes, the subjugation of women was American, but the Suffragist movement ultimately proved more American. And yes, the systematic legal and economic oppression of African Americans was American, and staunchly defended by some of this country’s greatest and most respected minds, but ultimately the Civil Rights movement proved far, far more American.

And yes, for generations, the systematic exploitation and degradation of the men and women who toil in our fields was every bit as American as all those other social ills. But, ultimately, we are quite certain that the Fair Food movement — including its premium, designed to redress decades of farmworker poverty created, in significant part, by the volume purchasing power of multi-billion dollar buyers like Wendy’s — will prove more American.

Let the Wendy’s Week of Action begin! 

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