On July 19, activists gathered in front of the Park Avenue building in New York City containing the office of Wendy’s Board Chairman, Nelson Peltz. They demanded that Wendy’s enter the Fair Food Program, and grant deserved rights to the farmworkers who pick the giant corporation’s tomatoes. Peltz, and his investment firm Trian Partners, are Wendy’s largest shareholders.
The march and rally were called by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a Florida-based farmerworkers’ rights organization which fights against the super-exploitation faced by farm workers, from unfair wages, to no pay for overtime and sexual violence.
The CIW has called a boycott of Wendy’s until the company commits to the Fair Food Program. Other fast food companies like Burger King and McDonald’s have agreed to buy tomatoes only from farms where the Fair Food Program guarantees tomato pickers’ basic rights.
This is the second time in four months that the CIW has come to New York and protested at the office of Nelson Peltz. Previously, scores of CIW farm workers and supporters camped out and fasted in front of 280 Park Avenue for five days, then 2,000 people then took to the streets in their support.
Since then, in reaction to consumer pressure over the abysmal human rights conditions in Mexico’s growing fields, Wendy’s has decided to shift its tomato purchases from Mexico to U.S. and Canadian greenhouses. While this is a gain, the CIW plans to keep the pressure up until Wendy’s signs on to the Fair Food Program.
More than 40 members of the CIW and their families spent 24 hours on a bus to come from Florida to New York City for the July 19 action. Hundreds of people from all backgrounds came out to stand in solidarity with the CIW. Fellow workers, students, other worker rights groups, community groups and members of the religious community voiced their opposition to the injustices farm workers face because of Wendy’s. To bring these issue to the attention of people in New York City, they took to the streets with banners, signs, and giant puppets of Wendy’s logo figure and of Nelson Peltz.
Onlookers around Midtown watched with interest as the lively march passed, chanting “Boycott Wendy’s!” Many did not even know that Wendy’s treated their farmers unfairly.
The dangers of speaking out against these conditions leave many farm workers silent while they suffer. But the CIW is known for making major gains for agricultural laborers. And this rally in New York City broke this silence, and gave a voice to the oppressed who toil to provide food for Americans across the nation. This action was an important step in raising awareness about this injustice to many folks who will now think twice before eating at Wendy’s.