In the last week alone, outside of sunny Florida, there have been some very exciting developments in the call to Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.
To start, a bit of background: Earlier this fall, rabbinic leaders with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights made several attempts to speak with Nelson Peltz, a key Wendy’s board member. When Mr. Peltz didn’t respond, 36 rabbis — all of whom had been to Immokalee on a T’ruah delegation — co-wrote and signed a private letter to him requesting a meeting by the Shabbat before International Human Rights Day (December 10), or they would take further action.
After continued silence from Mr. Peltz, the Jewish leaders published their letter last week and organized rabbinic delegations to Wendy’s in 15 cities across the country, many involving the congregation’s youth. The highly successful series of actions became part of T’ruah’s tradition of “Human Rights Shabbat.” (Read the full report here.)
Just days later, more than 80 food movement leaders, such as Raj Patel and Frances Moore Lappé, published a powerful letter to Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick in Civil Eats, urging him to “seize the moment” and join the Fair Food Program, through which “an agricultural industry based on respect for human rights is becoming a reality.” (Read the full report here.)
And just this past Monday, on a snowy afternoon in Dublin, Ohio, as Wendy’s executives and their VIP guests gathered for the invite-only opening ceremony for Wendy’s new “flagship restaurant,” the hallmark of the burger giant’s modernization campaign, a striking sight outside stole their attention through the transparent windows: 120 Ohioans processing single-file onto the sidewalk outside, bundled up in the cold, solemnly holding messages in support of justice, dignity and Fair Food. The Wendy’s executives could not turn away.
The company created the store with two goals in mind: to memorialize Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas — the man famous for his founding values like “do the right thing” and “treat people with respect,” and to showcase Wendy’s “modern” new look including digital menu boards, fireplaces, lounge chairs and wi-fi bars. The display begged the question from supporters of Fair Food: How does one move from “old fashioned” to “modern: with wi-fi bars, or by treating farmworkers in your supply chain with long overdue respect?
The bundled up Ohioans spent an over an hour in the freezing temperatures, bearing their messages and singing spirituals. When Wendy’s finally sent their spokesperson out to them, a delegation of faith leaders together with a member of the CIW delivered a petition from the anti-slavery organization Walk Free with over 150,000 signatures from around the country. The CIW and Jewish, Episcopal and Unitarian leaders insisted that Wendy’s justifications for refusal were tired and unfounded, and that they have a moral obligation to join this proven solution to farmworker abuse in the fields. (Read the full report here).
Between the powerful letters of Jewish and food justice leaders and the phenomenal witness of Ohio residents, the growing chorus to Wendy’s calling for Fair Food is growing stronger every day.