Protesters urge Wendy's to join Fair Food tomato labor pact

Tim Feran, The Columbus Dispatch

May 29, 2014

Sixty protesters chanted outside Wendy's Co. headquarters yesterday morning during the company's annual shareholders meeting, pushing for the fast-food chain to join the Fair Food Program, a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers and a dozen tomato retailers.

Inside Wendy's headquarters, Gerardo Reyes of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers joined with Dublin resident Nancy Powers and Ohio State University student Sara Stanger to present their case to CEO Emil Brolick and Wendy's shareholders.

Media were not permitted to attend the meeting.

The Fair Food Program covers a number of workplace issues, including pay, workerhealth and safety, complaint investigation and other labor issues.

Since 2005, 90 percent of the tomato industry in Florida has joined the program, Reyes said, including four of the top five fast-food chains - Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell and McDonald's - as well as Wal-Mart.

Wendy's hasn't signed on to participate in the Fair Food Program because its tomato suppliers in Florida already have, Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini said.

"The tomato-harvester employees work for our suppliers, and we expect our suppliers to appropriately pay them - and the suppliers have signed the Fair Food agreement," Bertini said.

"The program only works with the support of the buyers," Reyes said.