2014-2021 Press Releases
United Methodist Women Heads Coalition Against Wendy’s: Asking the Fast Food Giant to Sign a Fair Food Agreement￼
COLUMBUS, OHIO — On Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, a delegation composed of several United Methodist Women conferences joined forces with the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, the National Farm Worker Ministry, the Student Farm Worker Alliance, the Alliance for Fair Food, Ohio Fair Food, and women leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) as they called on Wendy’s, the last holdout of the five major fast food companies, to sign a Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
According to an MIT statistic the national living wage is calculated at $67,000 per year before taxes; while farm workers earn, on average, between $12,500 to $14,999 a year for individuals and $17,500 to $19,999 for a family.
Judith McRae, President of United Methodist Women in the New York Conference, said the women gathered on Thursday as a coalition of women of faith who understand that farm workers are not being treated fairly.
“We want fair living wages and safe working conditions for all farm workers and would love for Wendy’s to sign the Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers,” McRae said. “We hope and pray that Wendy’s corporate management comes to realize that what they’re doing is not what is required by our heavenly father.”
Coalition of Immokalee Workers senior staff member Lupe Gonzalo, speaking through interpreter Ximena Pedroza of the Alliance For Fair Food, said her coalition has been working for many years with United Methodist Women in the effort to gain a dignified voice, fair wages, and safe working conditions for farm workers, not just in Florida, but everywhere.
“We’ve already helped farm workers in the field have a voice and be able to work with dignity,” Gonzalo said. “We’ve been able to achieve just wages to support our families, and we’ve done this working shoulder to shoulder next to United Methodist Women.”
Noting Thursday’s cold weather and mixed snow and rain conditions, Gonzalo said she hoped members of the delegation would be victorious in its efforts to get Wendy’s to sign a Fair Food Agreement.
“Even though it’s harsh weather outside and very cold,” Gonzalo said, “our solidarity gives us the heat we need to defrost the frozen heart of Wendy’s and encourage them to meet our demands.”
The delegation met at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the Ohio State University campus Thursday morning to briefly plan their day and allow time for a quiet prayer before travelling to Ohio State University’s Longaberger Alumni House where a university board of trustees meeting was in progress.
Rachel Birri of the Student Farmworker Alliance, fall intern with the Alliance for Fair Food Maria Solis Kennedy, Gonzalo, and Pedroza entered the building to distribute literature encouraging OSU president Michael Drake to consider terminating the university’s recently renewed contract for an on-campus Wendy’s restaurant if Wendy’s corporate refuses to sign the a Fair Food Agreement. While that contingent was inside the alumni house the other delegation members remained outside demonstrating
The delegates then moved on to Wendy’s corporate headquarters in Dublin where they had planned to hand deliver 5,000 postcards to Wendy’s senior corporate staff members noting that disparity in wages and other concerns.
The post cards were gathered at a variety of events over the past several months encouraging Wendy’s to come on board with other major corporations like MacDonald’s and Whole Foods by signing the Fair Food Agreement that would improve the wages and working conditions of Wendy’s suppliers farm workers and also guarantee the right of independent monitoring of compliance with the agreement.
Contacted beforehand, Wendy’s management declined a request to meet with coalition members, personally accept the post cards, and discuss the coalition’s concerns. Wendy’s corporate also denied delegates access to Wendy’s property.
United Methodist Women arranged to have the post cards shipped to Wendy’s President and CEO Todd Penegor at the Dublin headquarters. That shipment was to arrive Thursday afternoon, to coincide with a demonstration on a public sidewalk outside Wendy’s corporate.
While demonstrating, members of the delegation read a letter that they had hoped to present to Penegor.
“We regret that we were not able to meet with a Wendy’s representative, nor to deliver a letter and postcards to your headquarters,” the letter stated. “We come to share our concerns regarding the farm workers who work for Wendy’s suppliers in Florida. We urge Wendy’s to follow the lead of other fast food companies by signing a Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
The letter also noted that United Methodist Women, et al, received correspondence from Liliana Esposito, Wendy’s Chief Communications Officer about Wendy’s efforts to shift the source of tomatoes first to Mexico and now to greenhouse farms to avoid paying just wages, and avoid addressing human rights and labor rights of farm workers.
“Evidence of unacceptable working conditions in the fields challenges Wendy’s claim that the company holds all of its suppliers to high standards, and has even more stringent requirements for labor and human rights assurances from its fresh produce suppliers, as you claim.
“We come representing United Methodist Women, the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, the National Farm Worker Ministry, and the Methodist Theological School of Ohio. Through its Living Wage for All Campaign, United Methodist Women joins other faith groups in working to support the rights of those who harvest our food … As people of faith we will continue to mobilize to urge Wendy’s to do the right thing.”
In addition to McRae, Gonzalo, Pedroza, Birri, and Kennedy, on board for the event were Sister Karen Bernhardt, Congregation of the Humility of Mary and National Farm Worker Ministry board member, Kristina DuBois, Church & Society of the East Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church, Carol Barton, Executive for Community Action, United Methodist Women national, Jeanne Long, President of United Methodist Women in the West Ohio Conference, Rosemary Uebel, United Methodist Women member of the Florida Conference; and Sue Carter, First Unitarian Universalist of Columbus/Ohio Fair Food.
Contact: Yvette Moore, email@example.com