“I took part in a rolling fast by clergy …I didn’t eat any tomatoes. But I had water to drink and a clean bathroom, and I didn’t spend the day looking over my shoulder in fear…”

Today, we find ourselves halfway through the month-long fast launched by clergy and faith leaders in Florida – the state with the most Wendy’s restaurants in the country – to continue escalating the call for justice from the final fast food holdout. The Florida Interfaith Fast for Farmworker Justice follows the monumental action taken first by 19 students at the Ohio State University who fasted for a week to advance their campaign to terminate Wendy’s campus lease, and then by hundreds of students at fourteen universities across the country throughout the month of April.

As faith leaders continue to add their voices to the growing choir of consumers refusing Wendy’s unconscionable failure to respect farmworker human rights, we take a moment to ponder the experience of those who have taken part so far – right after reporting on big news from the national front!

Major religious and worker leaders of Interfaith Worker Justice endorse the Florida fast

Earlier this week, the dozens of fasting Florida clergy and lay leaders received tremendous national backing from major religious leaders associated with longtime CIW supporter Interfaith Worker Justice, which endorsed the Wendy’s Boycott late last year.  At IWJ’s annual convening in Chicago, the IWJ Board of Directors, which is representative of 10 faith traditions, unanimously voted to support the Florida fast. Their searing letter, also signed by over 50 faith and workers’ center IWJ affiliate representatives, is addressed to Wendy’s President and CEO Todd Penegor and condemns the fast food giant’s failure to join the Fair Food Program:

As faith leaders representing various religious denominations and institutions, as well as representatives from worker centers and unions nationwide, we write to you today on behalf of the Interfaith Worker Justice network to express our wholehearted support for the scores of faith leaders across Florida embarking on a month-long rolling fast throughout the month of July in support of the Wendy’s Boycott called for by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers…

And today…we, too, join the growing alliance of consumers of conscience refusing to patronize Wendy’s because of its shameful refusal to take responsibility for conditions faced by farmworkers in its supply chain…

Wendy’s actions unequivocally fail the basic moral code that demands every single one of us work tirelessly for justice for all people on this Earth – and that unquestioningly prioritizes human life over corporate profits. Communities of faith, workers, and consumers across the country will not allow such actions to go unanswered...

(You can find the letter pasted in full below this post.)

In solidarity with Florida fast participants, 80+ IWJ members including IWJ Executive Director Laura Barrett and IWJ Board President Rev. Doug Mork hand-delivered a copy of the letter to a local Wendy’s manager in Chicago suburb Des Plaines:

In Florida, fast participants reflect

In addition to refraining from eating for a day, allies participating in the Florida Interfaith Fast for Farmworker Justice have been called to take accompanying action to fortify the movement to boycott Wendy’s. As the fast continues in the next couple weeks, we’ll be highlighting the statements of those who have chosen written reflection as their medium to amplify the fast.

This morning, the words of Rev. Leigh McCaffrey of the Florida Conference of the UCC serve as food for mind and spirit for those whose fast is still to come:

A Regretful Way

I really like Wendy’s baked potatoes and chili, especially on a chilly day. But I haven’t had them in years. I am really grateful for the way the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has done terrific work through their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiters. They help children like my grandchildren, who came to us through foster care and adoption. Wendy’s seems to really care about kids.

Except the kids of farmworkers.

…Wendy’s has repeatedly refused to join other food companies in agreements that would guarantee worker conditions and safeguards. Are these farmworker kids somehow less important than little white girls with red braids?

So, regretfully, I am boycotting Wendy’s. Last week, I took part in a rolling fast by clergy to try to pressure this company to do the right thing and join other responsible food vendors in protecting those who work in harsh conditions for low wages. I didn’t eat any tomatoes. But I had water to drink and a clean bathroom, and I didn’t spend the day looking over my shoulder in fear. At the end of the day, I got to giggle with my grandbabies on the phone. I want that for everyone’s mother and grandmother. I want that for everyone’s children.

I hope you will join me in this boycott, and in raising awareness of the needs of those whose labor feeds us every day.

(Read Rev. MacCaffrey’s full reflection here.)

Let us join the boycott, and work together towards a future in which the dignity of all farmworkers is respected.

You can sign the petition in support of the fasting Florida leaders and learn more about what you can do to grow the call for human rights from Wendy’s – including, making a donation today to the Wendy’s Boycott Fund. If you’d like to take part in the fast yourself, email patricia@allianceforfairfood.org.  

Stay tuned for more reflections and updates in the weeks to come!


9 July, 2017

To Mr. Todd Penegor:

As faith leaders representing various religious denominations and institutions, as well as representatives from worker centers and unions nationwide, we write to you today on behalf of the Interfaith Worker Justice network to express our wholehearted support for the scores of faith leaders across Florida embarking on a month-long rolling fast throughout the month of July in support of the Wendy’s Boycott called for by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

These leaders are fasting to condemn Wendy's failure to join the Fair Food Program and thereby join a proven solution to farmworker exploitation and abuse. They are fasting as a representation of the growing commitment of their communities in the ongoing national boycott of Wendy’s.

And today – as nearly 100 of us delivered this letter to a Chicago-area Wendy’s restaurant on the last day of IWJ’s annual convening – we, too, join the growing alliance of consumers of conscience refusing to patronize Wendy’s because of its shameful refusal to take responsibility for conditions faced by farmworkers in its supply chain.

Wendy’s stands alone among its competitors in its refusal to participate in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Presidential Medal-winning Fair Food Program (FFP). Your company's rejection of the Program goes beyond the fast food chain’s refusal to join. Following the implementation of the FFP in Florida tomato fields, Wendy’s unconscionably shifted its purchases away from participating farms in Florida to Mexico, where the produce industry is notoriously rife with farmworker abuse and exploitation. Instead of adopting the FFP’s uniquely effective worker-driven, market-enforced model for social responsibility, Wendy’s has championed a hollow Code of Conduct that cuts workers out of the equation and relies on woefully inadequate monitoring or enforcement mechanisms.  

Wendy’s actions unequivocally fail the basic moral code that demands every single one of us work tirelessly for justice for all people on this Earth – and that unquestioningly prioritizes human life over corporate profits. Communities of faith, workers, and consumers across the country will not allow such actions to go unanswered. Among the 27 Fair Food supporters who addressed Wendy’s executives and Board of Directors during Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting was Rick Ufford-Chase, former moderator of the PC(USA): 

“Your refusal to join the Fair Food Program places you on the wrong side of history.  So long as you choose to remain there, the faith community intends to work tirelessly with our ecumenical and interfaith partners to assure that this boycott will be effective. This movement has staying power within our churches.”

Mr. Penegor, we urge you to bring Wendy's into the ranks of buyers choosing the high road when it comes to human rights. We implore you to bring Wendy’s incredible purchasing power into the Fair Food Program and to thereby become a partner alongside farmworkers, growers, and your fast food buyer peers in furthering the human rights and fundamental dignity of our brothers and sisters toiling in the fields.

Respectfully,

Interfaith Worker Justice

Members of the Board of Directors of IWJ

The Rev. Doug Mork, Board President and Lead Pastor, Cross of Glory Lutheran Church in Brooklyn Center, MN

Bishop Howard Hubbard, Vice President of the Board and Bishop Emeritus, Diocese of Albany, NY

The Rev. Michael Livingston, Finance Committee Chairperson and Executive Minister, Riverside Church in New York, NY

Mr. Jules Bernstein, Fundraising Committee Chairperson and Attorney, Bernstein & Lipsett, P.C.

Mr. Naeem Baig, Communications Committee Chairperson and Vice President for Public Affairs, Islamic Circle of North America

The Rev. Troy Jackson, Ph. D., Organizing Committee Chairperson and Executive Director, AMOS Project

The Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Public Policy Committee Chairperson and Executive Director, Disciples Center for Public Witness

Mr. Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network Mr. Phil Cubeta, Sallie B. and William B. Wallace Chair in Philanthropy, American College

The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel, Senior Pastor, First Congregational Church of Dubuque, IA

The Rev. Sue Engh, Director, Congregation-based Community Organizing for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Ms. Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director, Workers Justice Project

Imam Taha Hassane, Imam, Islamic Center of San Diego

Ms. Karen Hessel, retired Program Director, Justice for Women, National Council of Churches

Mr. Louis Kimmel, Co-Founder and Executive Director, New Labor

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice – Los Angeles

Ms. Gema Lowe, Community Organizer, Micah Center

Dr. Joseph McCartin, Professor of History, Georgetown University and Executive Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor

Mr. David H. Moskowitz, Attorney, Morgan & Morgan

Mr. Hunter Ogletree, Community Organizer, Western North Carolina Workers’ Center

Mr. Fred Redmond, International Vice President of Human Affairs, United Steelworkers and Member, AFL-CIO Executive Council

Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Program Director and Rabbi in Residence, Jews United for Justice

Mr. Juan Ruiz, Community Organizer, Voces de la Frontera

Mr. Corey Saylor, Legislative Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

The Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, former President, United Church of Christ

Ms. Jeanette Smith, Executive Director, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice

Ms. Amy Smoucha, Managing Director, Jobs with Justice

Ms. Marilyn Sneiderman, Director, Rutgers University Center for Innovation in Worker Organization

Dr. Jerry Taylor, Associate Professor of Bible, Abilene Christian University

Mr. Mustafa White, Treasurer, Helping Hand for Relief and Development

Mr. David Wildman, Executive Secretary for Human Rights & Racial Justice, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church

Ms. Robin Williams, International Vice President and Director, Civil Rights and Community Action Department at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Mr. Will Layng, Executive Director, Portland Jobs with Justice

Members of IWJ Affiliated Groups

Ana I. Rodriguez, Workers' Center of West Michigan (Grand Rapids, MI)

Allison Colberg, Micah Center (Grand Rapids, MI)

Erin Hennessey, Southern Maine Workers’ Center (Portland, ME)

Cynthia Martinez, Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center (Springdale, AR)

Nikeeta Slade, Workers' Center of Central New York(Syracuse, NY)

Bob Jane, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (Oakland, CA)

Rafael Vieyra, Immigrant Solidarity DuPage (DuPage, IL)

Gabriel Hernández Chico, Immigrant Solidarity DuPage (DuPage, IL)

Cristobal Cavazos, Immigrant Solidarity DuPage (DuPage, IL)

Martha Ojeda, Interfaith Worker Justice (Houston, TX)

Anna Rubin, Interfaith Worker Justice (Chicago, IL)

Jeremy Orr, Interfaith Worker Justice (Chicago, IL)

Jorge F. Lopez, Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center (Cincinnati, OH)

Manuel Perez, Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Musah Abubzkar, Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Center (Cincinnati, OH)

Magda Orlander, Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Center (Cincinnati, OH)

Luis Torres, Rochester Workers’ Center (Rochester, NY)

Maria Clara Duarte, Domestic Workers and Day Labor Center of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Maria Esther Bolaños, Domestic Workers and Day Labor Center of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Marcela Hurtado Marquez, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

Maria C., Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

Lolita Lledo, Pilipino Workers Center (Los Angeles, CA)

Anne Smith, Workers Interfaith Network (Memphis, TN)

Carlos Ochoa, Workers Interfaith Network (Memphis, TN)

Savannah Caccamo, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice (Miami, FL)

Marianela Acuña, Fe y Justicia Worker Center (Houston, TX)

Guadalupe Magdaleno, Sunflower Community Action (Wichita, KS)

Carlos H. Gutierrez, Tompkins County Workers’ Center (Ithaca, NY)

Maureen Malkzewski, Thrive! Living Wage Coalition (Durango, CO)

Nora Reyes, Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network (Bryan, TX)

Alicia Olvera, Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network (Bryan, TX)

Jose Eduardo Sanchez, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (Los Angeles, CA)

Rebecca Taylor, Interfaith Worker Justice San Diego (San Diego, CA)

Steve Rivera, Interfaith Worker Justice San Diego (San Diego, CA)

Alex Galimberti, Oxfam (Boston, MA)

Becky Schigiel, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice (Madison, WI)

Valeria Chamba, New Labor (Newark, NJ)

Cidel Tandazo, New Labor (Newark, NJ)

The Rev. Holly Beaumont, Interfaith Worker Justice New Mexico (Santa Fe, NM)

León Carlos Miranda, Workers’ Rights Center of Madison (Madison, WI)

Anahi Tapia, United Food and Commercial Workers - Making Change at Walmart (Chicago, IL)