Outrage over explosive Harper’s article connecting Wendy’s to infamous Mexican tomato supplier prompts farmworkers, consumers to call for month of action to kick off national boycott…
Just a few short weeks ago, over 100 farmworkers from Immokalee — joined by 400+ consumers from across the state of Florida — wrapped up the Workers’ Voice Tour in Palm Beach, Florida, with an unforgettable march through the heart of the exclusive island community. With one voice they declared to all that would hear: Boycott Wendy’s!
The workers and their consumer allies declared the national boycott for three principal reasons:
1) Wendy’s is profiting from farmworker poverty by holding out while all its major competitors joined the Fair Food Program years ago;
2) Wendy’s has chosen public relations over human rights by releasing an empty, toothless code of conduct in response to the FFP’s award-winning, enforcement focused, worker-driven approach to social responsibility; and
3) Wendy’s abandoned the Florida tomato industry after the implementation of the FFP and shifted its purchases to Mexico, where human rights violations are endemic and go effectively unchecked.
It was the third reason, of course, that truly set Wendy’s apart from all other major food retailers yet to join the Fair Food Program, and made this month’s declaration of a boycott all but inevitable.
But it is one thing to run away from the most widely-respected social responsibility program in agriculture today — Whole Foods called the Fair Food Program “the leading worker welfare success story in the U.S.” just this past week — into the arms of an industry in Mexico known around the world for the prevalence of child labor, sexual abuse, and forced labor there. It is another thing altogether to make one of its most notorious growers one of your key suppliers.
In the week following the 10-day cross-country tour, Harper’s Magazine came out with an explosive new article titled “Trump’s Tomatoes,” revealing that the Kaliroy Corporation — the very same Mexican tomato producer that was the subject of a scathing exposé by the LA Times detailing the enslavement of hundreds of Mexican workers in nightmarish working conditions — is in fact “one of Wendy’s suppliers.” To say that the Fair Food Nation was outraged following last week’s revelation would be an understatement.
Gross human rights abuses, humiliations documented in harrowing detail…
For those of you unfamiliar with the Kaliroy story, and the Bioparques farm where workers were discovered in shockingly inhumane conditions, put aside whatever else you might be doing at the moment and go read the full second installment of the explosive four-part investigative series in the LA Times entitled “A Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexican Farms, a Bounty on US Tables”. Take your time and read it thoroughly, the power is in the details. Here are just a few:
“The compound was fenced with barbed wire and patrolled by bosses on all-terrain vehicles.”
“You’re trying to leave,” he said, after spotting a change of clothing in a plastic bag Martinez was carrying.
“I’m just going for a walk,” Martinez said.
“Get in the car or I’ll break you,” the boss replied.
One day, a mother confronted a boss. She asked for more tortillas. Ricardo Martinez, who was standing in the soup line behind the woman, recalled the boss’ reaction.
“He told her she would only get a slap in the face,” Martinez said. “Then an older man stepped in and said, ‘Don’t hit her, hit me.’ “
Martinez said the boss knocked the man to the ground and beat him. “She just needed more for her kids. What they gave wasn’t enough,” Martinez said.
Workers would hatch escape plots as desperation gripped the camp… Two young women spotted by a company guard just outside the front gate were dragged back inside. A boss had each one by the collar. They hung their heads, Guillermo Martinez said.
“I just want to go home,” he recalled one woman crying out.
Bosses threw the women’s backpacks in a storage room filled with confiscated belongings. They routinely took escapees’ shoes and docked them three days’ pay.
It goes on, and on, a graphic story of unbridled power, greed, and inhumanity.
On June 10, 2013, three people managed to escape. They hitchhiked 100 miles to Guadalajara, where they notified authorities. The next day, dozens of state and federal officials arrived at Bioparques.
Ricardo Martinez, who had resorted to rummaging through garbage cans for food, broke down when he saw police and soldiers pouring through the gates.
“To tell you the truth, I cried…. Everybody there was really sick,” he said. “They treated us like slaves.”
Two hundred seventy-five people had been trapped in the camp, including two dozen malnourished children.
At least one man had been tied to a tree and beaten by camp bosses, said Juan Ramirez Arrona, a director general of the state of Jalisco’s Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare.
“They were totally captive, prisoners,” Ramirez said in an interview.
You can read the second installment of the LA Times series on the Mexican produce industry in its entirety here.
Time for action…
And so was born the Month of Outrage. Building on the massive wave of energy generated by the tour and the launch of the boycott, the Fair Food Nation is dedicating the next month to letting Wendy’s know that the longer the fast food giant waits, the stronger this national boycott will grow.
Ready to join us? Here are just some of the many ways you can take part in the month of action ahead:
- March or picket at your local Wendy’s
- Deliver a letter signed by your community to the local Wendy’s manager
- Write an op-ed in your local paper
- Organize a group call-in to the office of Wendy’s Board Chairman Nelson Peltz’s office
- Run a boycott pledge drive (and document it with photos!)
- Host a vigil at a local Wendy’s
The Alliance for Fair Food has even put together a brand-new boycott creative action guide, which you can click here to download! And if you’re in Southwest Florida, you can join farmworkers from Immokalee in launching the Month of Outrage this Sunday at 1pm in Naples, Florida.
Ready to turn up the heat on Wendy’s in your community? Write us at organize (at) allianceforfairfood.org