The UT Student/Farmworker Alliance held a rally Wednesday to protest Wendy’s refusal to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, which would have Wendy’s pay farmworkers a penny more per pound of tomatoes. In addition, the FFP would hold Wendy’s responsible for ensuring its Florida tomato suppliers maintain a certain level of humane labor conditions for farmworkers.
The rally gathered outside the Wendy’s in the Texas Union and marched to the Wendy’s in Jester, where the alliance gave a letter requesting Wendy’s join the FFP to two waiting Wendy’s employees at both locations, who wished to remain anonymous.
“The FFP guarantees rights never before seen for Florida farmworkers, such as rights to shade and rest breaks from their grueling work and zero tolerance for sexual harassment and modern slavery,” the national Student/Farmworkers Alliance letter read. “Since 2011, participating buyers have paid more than $15 million through the FFP, constituting the first pay increase for workers in over 30 years.”
Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said it is not necessary for Wendy’s to join the FFP, as Wendy’s does not work directly with farmworkers.
“Like most companies, we do not purchase directly from the people that harvest tomatoes or any other agricultural products,” Bertini said in an email. “We require our suppliers to adhere to state and federal requirements related to worker health and safety, and we are proud to work with responsible companies who share our commitment to quality and doing the right thing.”
According to Student/Farmworker Alliance website, 15 multi-billion dollar food realtors have agreed to sign on to the FFP. Wendy’s is the only one of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — the others being McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway and Burger King — that is not participating in the program.
Business honors sophomore Juan Saez said he approached the rally to ask what they were protesting.
“I learned that, even though Wendy’s portrays a good image, they have some very controversial practices,” Saez said. “The public doesn’t usually know these things, so these movements are important, especially on college campuses where students are open to new ideas. I wouldn’t have learned about this otherwise.”