MEDIA ROUND-UP: From NYC to Palm Beach, Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz’s hometown papers lift up Fair Food…

Following protests in New York City and West Palm Beach, national and local news shine spotlight on Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program and do its part to support efforts to end sexual violence against women in the fields…

Last Sunday afternoon, farmworker women and their families, alongside South Florida allies, kept a fall season of action rolling with a protest at the Wendy’s restaurant nearest to Nelson Peltz’s multi-million dollar Palm Beach mansion. 

The colorful picket was hard to miss as cars drove down Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, a principal thoroughfare connecting West Palm Beach and the exclusive community of Palm Beach Island.

Indeed, following last month’s 250-strong march to Mr. Peltz’s offices at Trian Partners (the investment firm he heads in New York City), Sunday’s demonstration in Palm Beach served as a reminder for Mr. Peltz that he cannot run from his responsibility to help end the generations-old problem of sexual violence in agriculture.  Today, we bring you a quick media round up from the last two weeks of Fair Food actions, highlighting two stories in particular from Nelson Peltz’s two hometowns, New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.  

Hundreds march through the streets of Manhattan to offices of Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz (November 2017)

Up in the Big Apple, the New York Times featured an excellent op/ed by The Nation’s Sarah Leonard that singled out the Fair Food Program as a national model for ending sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.  In her piece, titled “How to Stop the Predators Who Aren’t Famous,” Leonard explores what are now near daily accusations of powerful producers, actors, politicians, and public figures by women (and men) who’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted by powerful perpetrators.  She pivots from the broader national context to a vastly under-explored question:

But what about the women who are sexually harassed by men who aren’t even a little famous?  It’s unlikely many newspapers care about a disgusting night-shift manager at the local Denny’s. The fact is that sexual harassment is more about power than sex; any industry with extreme power differentials will be afflicted by it. ‘Raising awareness’ is crucial, but not enough.

In answering this question, Leonard goes on to describe the Fair Food Program as one of the nation’s most powerful and effective mechanisms for creating a workplace free of sexual violence, a workplace without victims:

Graphic from the New York Times

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-run human rights organization based in Florida, for example, has incorporated sexual harassment rules and penalties into its Fair Food Program, the labor agreement reached after an enormous struggle with fast food companies. It has worked. The coalition says it has gotten 23 supervisors disciplined for harassment and nine fired. “The bosses and even the growers in the agricultural industry are not public figures, and so public shaming does nothing to change their behavior,” Julia Perkins, a spokeswoman for the Immokalee Workers, told me.

The natural question that follows Leonard’s hopeful piece is: How can we expand these gains?  What is can be done to bring the power of the Fair Food model to bear in other industries equally in need of reform? 

None of the FFP’s success, of course, would be possible without the participation of the 14 major buyers, from Whole Foods and Subway to Walmart, who provide the market-based enforcement behind the Program’s strict zero tolerance for sexual violence.  Indeed, it is the Program’s proven success and its measurable impact on the lives of tens of thousands of farmworkers that make the refusal of corporations like Wendy’s — and their leadership, including Nelson Peltz — all the more unconscionable.

If the history of the Campaign for Fair Food is any indication, however, we can be sure that Wendy’s resistance will ultimately be overcome by the commitment and moral leadership of the Fair Food Nation.  And on that note, we bring you the second highlight of today’s round-up, a piece of news from the Palm Beach Post, which provided excellent coverage of this Sunday’s protest in Mr. Peltz’s backyard:

Farmworker protest takes aim at part-time Palm Beacher

By Kimberly Miller

December 3, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH — About 50 people protested outside a West Palm Beach fast-food chain restaurant Sunday in a farm labor dispute that brushes Palm Beach as it stretches from the fields of Immokalee to the steel towers of New York and deep into Mexico.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers organized Sunday’s protest outside a Wendy’s restaurant to draw attention to the company’s refusal to join the coalition’s Fair Food Program, which aims to protect farmworkers’ from human rights abuses.

The protest location near the corner of Hank Aaron Drive and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard was strategically chosen. It is the closest restaurant to the $82 million oceanfront Palm Beach mansion of Nelson Peltz, chairman of Wendy’s board of directors.

Last week, about 250 coalition protesters marched to Peltz’s New York offices.

“He has a lot of power, that’s why we’ve been focusing on him,” said Patricia Cipollitti, national co-coordinator for the Alliance for Fair Food. “If he says something should happen, it will.”…

… “This group orchestrates negative publicity events and distributes misleading information about our company and our suppliers,” Schauer said.

But Silvia Perez, who picked tomatoes for 15 years in Immokalee fields, said before the coalition created the Fair Food Program and got 14 companies to support it, many workers could not report abuses without fear of retaliation and suffered without breaks, shade or water.

The program requires companies to buy from suppliers that follow the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which outlines appropriate working standards, monitoring and enforcement.

McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Taco Bell have agreed to the Fair Food Program.

“Women can work free of sexual harassment and are more free to speak up and speak out,” Perez said through an interpreter. “They have the right to complain without retaliation.”

Part of the coalition’s concerns is that Wendy’s is buying from a supplier in Mexico that it says is known to have worker abuse complaints against it.

A blog on Wendy’s website says the Ohio-based company has its own code of conduct that “requires suppliers for tomatoes and everything else we buy to adhere to high standards for integrity and business practices.”

Perez called the code of conduct used by Wendy’s “an illusion.”

The word “illusion” is a perfect choice to describe Wendy’s code of conduct.  The Oxford Dictionary defines illusion as “a deceptive appearance or impression… a false idea or belief”.   Wendy’s code is indeed nothing more than the Potemkin Village of social responsibility, all surface appearance and superficial structures of standards, with none of the substance of enforcement to make those standards real.  

With that, we encourage you to take a moment to check out the many other articles covering the past two weeks of action:

, , , , , , ,