Kate Kelly

Culture Farm Issues Justice Labor

Last week, we reported from outside 280 Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan—a somewhat cold and glittering setting, not at all evocative of the warm Florida tomato fields where the farmworkers we had arrived to talk to typically spend their days.

But midtown Manhattan, and 208 Park Avenue in particular, plays host to the office of Nelson Peltz, the non-executive chairman of the board of the fast-food chain, Wendy’s. We may have been there to talk to the farmworkers, but they were there very much there to talk to him.

Though, “talk” isn’t quite accurate. The Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW), together with the Alliance for Fair Food, a nationwide network of advocates for farmworker justice, were in New York City for a five-day fast in protest of the chain. Wendy’s has long held out on joining the Fair Food Program, a program launched in 2011 that has been successful in securing a penny more per pound of the tomatoes they sell to 14 other large food retailers, including Walmart and Taco Bell. 

The message from roughly 70 farmworkers: “Time’s up, Wendy’s.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that message is too close to the unprecedented amount of public discourse and reconciliation around sexual violence after the #MeToo movement began in October of 2017. But it’s important to know that for more than two decades, these activists have been working to secure never-before-seen rights in the fields. We’re talking about shade and water; the right to file a complaint without fear of retaliation; the first real wage increase in 30 years, and perhaps most critically: the right to work free of sexual harassment and modern slavery.

Below is a chronicle in pictures of their fight.

Protestor sits on the curb with a yellow armband during the 2018 Wendy's boycott in NYCKate Kelly

Maria Lopez, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). She wears a yellow armband that signals she is participating in the fast

Protestor holds a sign at the NYC 2018 Wendy's boycott over its refusal to sign onto the Fair Food ProgramKate Kelly

Nely Rodriguez, a CIW staff member, was on site with one of her three children in tow

Pastor holds a stack of flyers at the NYC 2018 Wendy's boycott over its refusal to sign onto the Fair Food ProgramKate Kelly

Reverend Michael Livingston, executive minister at New York City’s Riverside Church, holds flyers for distribution that read, “Time’s up Wendy’s: 100,000 people supporting the Freedom Fast to end sexual violence in the fields”

Protestor holds a sign at the NYC 2018 Wendy's boycott over its refusal to sign onto the Fair Food ProgramKate Kelly

Ximena Pedroza, a student at New College of Florida, also fasted in April of last year as a part of the rolling nationwide student fast

Man holds a Freedom Fast sign outside of Wendy's board chairman's officeKate Kelly

A protester stands with their back to the street in front of 280 Park Avenue, the offices of Nelson Peltz, a non-executive chairman of the board of Wendy’s with a sign designed to look like a barrel of tomatoes and reads in “nuevo dia,” which translates to “new day”

Protestor holds a sign at the NYC 2018 Wendy's boycott over its refusal to sign onto the Fair Food ProgramKate Kelly

Martha Herrera is a member of Migrant Justice, the Vermont-based human rights organization expanding on the Fair Food Program’s worker-driven social responsibility model through their Milk with Dignity Program in the Vermont dairy industry

Protestors rally during a march for the Wendy's boycottKate Kelly

The fast for freedom protestors walk down Fifth Avenue to the Wendy’s location at Union Square in Manhattan. A papier-mâché farmworker woman holds a barrel of tomatoes

hillary bonhomme

Hillary Bonhomme

Hillary Bonhomme is The New Food Economy's multimedia producer and reporter. Before joining the team, she produced content for several non-profit entities, including WNYC, WQXR, and Creative Capital. Outside of her work at The New Food Economy, Hillary is active as a musician and has taken the stage at National Sawdust, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, and The Jerome L. Greene Space. Reach her by email at: hillary.bonhomme@newfoodeconomy.org

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