“As people of faith… we pledge to join the boycott of Wendy’s until Wendy’s commits to justice for the workers that make your profits possible.”

Religious leaders from across faith traditions, including author Brian McLaren, speak out in support of the Fair Food Program in 2014

Religious leaders from across faith traditions, including author Brian McLaren, speak out in support of the Fair Food Program in 2014.

Major religious leaders from more than 12 faith traditions call out Wendy’s leadership in searing letter…

Adding to the growing drumbeat of support from the faith community, over twenty powerful religious leaders have penned an open letter to Wendy’s leadership, just ahead of tomorrow’s shareholder meeting in Ohio.  Unequivocal in their support for the Fair Food Program and the new era of human rights for farmworkers it has delivered, denominational presidents, bishops, ministers, rabbis and authors are standing together to urge Wendy’s leadership to get with the Program. 

From their positions within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other mainstream faith communities, these spiritual and religious leaders hail from a diverse set of institutions that represent millions upon millions of followers.

Here is the letter in full:

Dear Emil Brolick, Nelson Peltz, and the Board of Directors of The Wendy’s Company,

As leaders of diverse national faith bodies who care deeply about human rights, we are writing to call on Wendy’s to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program. In March, the CIW launched a national boycott of Wendy’s in response to the fast food company’s decision to reject a proven human rights program that is preventing violence, wage theft, sexual assault, and slavery in the Florida tomato industry and beyond. We as people of faith endorse the CIW’s boycott of Wendy’s.

As you know, the CIW has worked with growers and corporations to build the Fair Food Program, an innovative collaboration that today is transforming the agricultural industry. This Program ensures farmworkers will labor in safety and with respect, enables growers to be as proud of their working conditions as their products, and allows buyers to assure their customers that the produce they purchase has been fairly brought to their shelves.

Rev. April Blaine speaking at a rally in front of Wendy's headquarters in 2014

Rev. April Blaine speaking at a rally in front of Wendy’s headquarters in 2014

The faith bodies we represent have been supporting this effort for many years through endorsements, resolutions and letters to corporations, 14 of which have now joined the Program. We have been calling on Wendy’s to join the FFP since 2013. We have joined farmworkers in countless vigils, marches, protests, and phone calls to your headquarters asking Wendy’s to respect the dignity of farmworkers. We deplore the conditions under which farmworkers were forced to work and must still work in fields not participating in the Fair Food Program — conditions of abuse, sexual harassment, and in extreme cases, modern-day slavery.

We are distressed that Wendy’s has not only refused to join the FFP, but has stopped buying tomatoes from Florida altogether following the implementation of the Program there.  Rather than join a program that ensures respect for workers’ human rights, Wendy’s took its tomato purchases to Mexico, where workers continue to confront sexual harassment, child labor, and even slavery without access to remedy. Specifically, as revealed in an investigative piece from Harper’s Magazine last month, Wendy’s currently sources from a Mexican grower that was the subject of a massive slavery prosecution in 2013.  What is more, your corporation promotes its own supplier code of conduct that contains no effective mechanisms for worker participation or enforcement. And of the five largest fast food companies, Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the FFP. Wendy’s has opted to profit from farmworker poverty and abuse by deriving a cost advantage over its competitors and continuing to provide an alternative market outside the FFP for less reputable growers.

As people of faith, we call upon you to join fourteen other buyers including McDonalds, Yum! Brands, Burger King, and Walmart and millions of consumers nationwide in protecting the human rights of farmworkers through the Fair Food Program – and we pledge to join the boycott of Wendy’s until Wendy’s commits to justice for the workers that make your profits possible.

Sincerely,

Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Carol Winkler, 2015-2018 Moderator, Presbyterian Women

Sara Lisherness, Director of Compassion, Peace & Justice, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Traci D. Blackmon, Executive Minister, Justice & Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Rev. Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Executive Director, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Most Rev. Steven M. Rosczewski, Presiding Bishop of the Communion of Synodal Catholic Churches

Rev. Dr. William Schulz, President and CEO, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA

Brian D. McLaren, author and theologian

Dianne Aid, President, The Episcopal Network for Economic Justice

Paul Alexander, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Christopher G. Kerr, Executive Director, Ignatian Solidarity Network

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, President, Meadville Lombard Theological School (Unitarian Universalist)

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage, Starr King School for the Ministry 

Marya Axner, Regional Director, New England Jewish Labor Committee

Deaconess Darlene DiDomineck, incoming Interim Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network

This letter is yet another significant wave in what has quickly become a rising tide of mobilization among people of faith to boycott Wendy’s.  

Wendy’s leadership can rest assured that the signatories will not be satisfied with sending one letter, or simply cutting Wendy’s out of their own daily routine.  Rather, they will be spreading the boycott far and wide among the millions of followers in their respective communities from the various pulpits and platforms they command.  As the growing chorus of support among consumers of conscience grows ever louder in Wendy’s ears (and the boycott cuts ever deeper into their profits), the only question is when the fast food giant will realize what their competitors have known now for years:  The future of social responsibility means an end to human rights abuses in the supply chain, not a PR-driven mirage of change — and 21st century consumers will accept nothing less.