Executive for Community Action Carol Barton, left, and Judith McRae, President of New York Annual Conference UMW.
On March 3, United Methodist Women members and national staff persons joined the National Farmworker Ministry (NFM) and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) when the Workers' Voice Tour kicked off in New York City.
The Workers' Voice Tour began at the Park Avenue offices of Nelson Peltz, Wendy's Board Chairman and principal of the company's largest stockholder, Trian Partners. Combined, Trian and Peltz hold close to a quarter of Wendy's shares, exerting considerable sway in the company's decision-making. Peltz has rejected calls from farmworkers and consumers for Wendy's to join the Fair Food Program, even after a three-year consumer campaign, a burgeoning student boycott, over 200 faxes sent directly to Peltz from T'ruah rabbis, and a march to Trian's offices in New York City in November 2015.
CIW has called on food companies to embrace a Fair Food Program; buyers support a wage increase by paying an additional penny per pound and require a human-rights-based Code of Conduct to be implemented on the farms that grow their tomatoes. This transforms the labor environment in Florida's fields and promotes better wages.
Among fast food chains, only Wendy's does not participate in the Fair Food Program; in fact, Wendy's has intentionally moved tomato purchases away from Florida and its FFP-participating farms. Wendy's recently released a supplier Code of Conduct that excludes workers and their voices from the enforcement of worker protections in the fields.
The next stop for the CIW Voice Tour will be Dublin, Ohio — the location of Wendy's headquarters. A year ago, Ohio State students (in nearby Columbus) launched a national student boycott of Wendy's. Following Ohio's stop, the tour will visit the University of Louisville, Ky., where students have recently launched a national student boycott that is rapidly gaining momentum. Heading south, the tour will stop at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where students are also active in farmworker advocacy. The last stop is Palm Beach, Florida. Farmworkers and allies will close the tour with a march near one of Nelson Peltz's residences.
Many CIW victories have depended on the mobilization of people of faith, using their consumer power to push companies to do the right thing. Recently, CIW workers spoke with United Methodist Women members at the January 2016 Leadership Development Days event in Lake Junaluska, N.C., to talk about the work of allies for social justice.
The Fair Food Program (FPF) has been lauded by the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives and the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights. United Methodist Women is a long-time member of the National Farmworker Ministry, supporting farmworkers in the U.S. through advocacy, shareholder actions, and corporate campaigns. Members of United Methodist Women groups in Florida have rallied many times in support of CIW's efforts to hold fast food chains and supermarkets accountable for working conditions and wages.