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Est. April 5, 2002
March 17, 2016 - Issue 645

Florida Farm Workers
Continue Fight For 1 Cent
“BOYCOTT Wendy’s”


"Wendy’s is profiting from farm worker poverty:
Wendy’s stands alone as the last of the five
major U.S. fast food corporations to refuse to
join the FFP (Fair Food Program): McDonald’s,
Yum! Brands, Subway, and Burger King
are all part of the Program."

For 10 days this month, it might have been a page out of the 1960s, when farm workers and their supporters fought to have their work recognized as a vital part of the American food system, although their bosses wanted to keep them in the shadows, so their starvation wages and toxic working conditions could be kept in the shadows.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) took its case for higher pay and healthy working conditions, March 2-12, to cities on the East Coast, from New York to Palm Beach, Florida, and places along the way. The CIW calls it the “Campaign for Fair Food,” and for many Americans, their campaign brought their working conditions out of the shadows.

So far, the CIW campaign has been successful in demanding that major food corporations require that those who provide their tomatoes pay 1 cent more per pound for the crop that is picked for their restaurants, but on holdout is Wendy’s hamburger chain that not only refused to demand the 1-cent raise, but switched suppliers from Florida to Mexico, where the farm workers’ conditions are worse than the worst conditions in the U.S.

The CIW stated: “Wendy’s is profiting from farm worker poverty: Wendy’s stands alone as the last of the five major U.S. fast food corporations to refuse to join the FFP (Fair Food Program): McDonald’s, Yum! Brands, Subway, and Burger King are all part of the Program. By refusing to participate, Wendy’s is deriving a very real cost advantage over its competitors, while continuing to provide a market for less reputable growers…” The led-led group has called for a nationwide boycott of Wendy’s and the 10-day march down the East Coast was designed to bring news of the boycott to the people.

However, the members of CIW and their supporters went to one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country, location of an endless array of multi-million-dollar homes, one of which is the vacation home of Nelson Peltz, chairman of the board of Wendy’s. As the marchers declared: “We are here to remind Nelson Peltz that there is something more important than money:  Dignity!” 

One cent per pound of tomatoes picked might not sound like much of a raise, but it makes the difference between just getting by and living like they matter in the scheme of things. And, they do matter. The March in Palm Beach gave the 1-per-centers who live there a chance to see the faces of the human beings who plant and harvest the food that they eat in their gourmet restaurants. Or, that their in-house chefs bring to their own tables.

The country’s three largest food service providers (Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass Group) have signed on to the Fair Food Program. As CIW has noted: “Not only does the FFP make a substantial difference for workers’ wages, but it transforms the labor environment in Florida’s fields into a workplace rooted in mutual respect and basic dignity for farm workers.” And, that’s because the Code of Conduct that corporations sign is a human rights-based code that transforms the conditions in which the work is performed on the farms.

Now, in addition to bringing Wendy’s into human rights conformance, CIW is turning to the $550 billion supermarket industry, in which some chains already have signed the agreements for fair food. Already signed are: Trader Joe’s, 1012; Whole Foods, 2008; Wal-Mart, 2014; and Ahold USA and The Fresh Market, both of which signed in 2015. The CIW has turned its efforts on the other major U.S. supermarket chains, asking them and their customers to demand that suppliers sign the agreement for fair food and decent conditions for the workers. Tens of thousands of customers already have signed. Those who wish to sign as customers of their favorite food chain can get the information by visiting:

The mass march to Palm Beach could be considered the mid-point in the CIW effort to bring U.S. retail food chains and their suppliers into conformity with a human rights agenda and the group’s success so far has been remarkable. It has not been easy. The first win was an agreement with Taco Bell in the early 2000s and, since then, it has been a long period of hard work on the part of thousands of farm workers and their supporters. More of the same lies ahead. CIW pointed out that Wendy’s spokesperson Bob Bertini said, “We take all human rights and labor practices issues seriously and expect the same from our suppliers…” But the farm workers are not satisfied with “expect,” rather they want Wendy’s to “demand” that the company’s suppliers adhere to the human rights principles adhered to by the companies that have signed agreements.

Not all Palm Beach residents ignore or are hostile to the farm workers and their quest for justice. Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, lives in Palm Beach and was with CIW and the marchers during their 2.7-mile walk to the rally site, reminiscent of her husband’s support of farm workers in an earlier time.

What is also remarkable about the march is what it says about the state of working men and women (and children, too) in America. That they have to fight every day for a

1-cent-per-pound increase in their pay is an indictment of the poverty of the legal system that allows people to work in heat of the day, in fields that have been sprayed with chemicals, and go without proper sanitation or fresh water, and be paid a fraction of what they should be paid.

Americans can do better than that for those who allow them to put food on the table every day. It’s the right thing to do, and even a simple thing like signing a petition or calling for a boycott of Wendy’s. Then, follow through and…boycott Wendy’s. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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David A. Love, JD
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Peter Gamble

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