September 24, 2022

CBSRZ Members Take Action on Local Wendy’s

CBSRZ members taking action for Fair Food at Guilford Wendy's

CBSRZ members taking action for Fair Food at Guilford Wendy’s

On Sunday, November 10, Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ) members and their children took action at Wendy’s, located in Guilford, to call on the restaurant chain to support human rights in its tomato supply chain by joining the internationally-recognized Fair Food Program (FFP). The FFP is a groundbreaking social responsibility program that ensures a humane workplace and increased pay for over 30,000 Florida farmworkers and has won the praise of human rights observers from the White House to the United Nations. ­­Coinciding with Wendy’s Founder’s Week – a week-long celebration of Wendy’s Founder Dave Thomas’s core values – the action is part of a series of protests in dozens of cities nationwide this week.

Rabbi Goldenberg, Ziv Goldenberg, Jeannette Ickovics and Melinda Alcosser deliver letters to manager of Wendy's in Guilford

Rabbi Goldenberg, Ziv Goldenberg, Jeannette Ickovics and Melinda Alcosser deliver letters to manager of Wendy’s in Guilford

On Saturday, CBSRZ Religious School parents and their children learned about the problem of abuse and even modern-day slavery conditions in the tomato industry. Then, on Sunday afternoon, eighteen CBSRZ members delivered dozens of letters to the manager of the Wendy’s in Guilford, urging Wendy’s to sign on to the Fair Food Program.

Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands) and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick was the President of Taco Bell in 2005 when that chain became the first to sign a Fair Food Agreement. He announced that agreement by stating, “We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution,” and added, “We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.”  Eight years later, despite those words, and now with 11 corporations and 90% of the Florida tomato industry on board, Wendy’s under Brolick’s leadership refuses to participate in the Program.

“As Wendy’s celebrates Founder’s Week and champions such values as ‘Treat People with Respect,’ ‘Give Something Back,’ and ‘Do The Right Thing,’” stated Gerardo Reyes of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, “We are calling on Wendy’s to use this week as an opportunity to turn the values it claims to support into a reality by ensuing that as farmworkers our basic human rights and dignity are respected.”

Guilford resident Holly Starkman, a participant in Sunday’s action, explained her participation saying, “I am united with my fellow congregants today to support human rights for farmworkers who are not currently receiving fair treatment.  The Fair Food Program enforces fair treatment through adequate wages and working – it’s the right thing to do.”

Rabbi Goldenberg commented on Wendy’s recent response to consumer demands that the company join the Fair Food Program saying, “Claiming your company is already working to respect farmworkers’ rights, while refusing to commit to the only proven, verifiable, and transparent solution, the Fair Food Program, misleads your customers and tarnishes Wendy’s brand. As 21st century consumers, we want to know the story behind our food and this means we expect and demand that the farmworkers who pick your tomatoes be treated with dignity and respect.”

Explaining the participation of a synagogue in this action, Rabbi Goldenberg continued, “As Jews we learn from our sacred teachings that all human beings are created in the Divine image and must be treated with dignity –  from the citizen, to the immigrant, to the destitute laborer. This is a moral issue, and we must not be silent.”

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program is an historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and eleven leading food corporations. By committing to the FFP, participating corporations demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers and purchase exclusively from those who meet those higher standards, among them required time clocks, health and safety protections, and a zero tolerance policy for slavery and sexual assault. Participating corporations also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium which is passed down through the company’s supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers. The FFP was heralded in the Washington Post as “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” and in a White House report concerning global efforts to combat human trafficking as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” to that end.  Since 2011, buyers have paid over $11 million through the Fair Food Program.