US tomato farm workers march against Wendy’s fast food chain

Since March of this year, there have been calls to boycott Wendy’s fast food restaurants. Workers’ rights groups across the East Coast, from Florida to New York, have been marching and protesting the poor safety conditions of farmworkers. Since 1993, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization of farmworkers, have unionized to advocate the right of farmworkers to have a liveable wage and a safe, non-violent and sexual harassment-free environment.

In 2011, the Fair Food Program (FFP) was established by the CIW, which protects farm workers from exploitation and ensures a contract between the farmworkers, tomato growers and retail buyers. Under the FFP, retail buyers agree to pay a small fare for every tomato picked that goes on to the farmworker’s pay check.

Calling out Wendy’s on joining the FFP is not the first time the CIW has done this. In the past, they have called out other fast food chain restaurants like Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, McDonald’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Each case was a difficult one; it took protest after protest in order to convince these companies to agree to the Fair Food Program contract.

All the pressure is on Wendy’s now. It is one of the major food chains still refusing to join the FFP, and has even stopped buying tomatoes in Florida since this implementation.

“Multinational business has long pursued higher quality and lower cost of inputs as a reason for relocating parts of the value chain overseas. It’s the reason our smartphones are manufactured in China, our sneakers are made in Indonesia, and our customer service calls are routed to India, Ireland and a host of other places,” Cal State East Bay business professor Timothy Wat told The Pioneer.

Wendy’s claims to have relocated in purchasing tomatoes due to the better quality of tomatoes and not because of the implementation of joining the Fair Food Program.

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