A Regretful Way

I really like Wendy’s baked potatoes and chili, especially on a chilly day. But I haven’t had them in years. I am really grateful for the way the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has done terrific work through their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiters. They help children like my grandchildren, who came to us through foster care and adoption. Wendy’s seems to really care about kids.

Except the kids of farmworkers.

Not only has Wendy’s turned its back on the farmworkers who harvest its produce, but it has taken steps that directly undermine the transformation that has been brought about by the Fair Food Program.  Here’s how:

  1. Wendy’s has not only refused to join the Fair Food Program (FFP), but has stopped buying tomatoes from Florida since the implementation of the FFP there. Rather than support an industry setting new standards for human rights, Wendy’s took its tomato purchases to Mexico, where workers continue to confront wage theft, sexual harassment, child labor, and even slavery without access to protections.
  2. Instead of joining the FFP and its widely-acclaimed, uniquely successful worker-driven model of social responsibility, Wendy’s released a new supplier code of conduct that contains no effective mechanisms for worker participation or enforcement. Wendy’s new code represents the very worst of the traditional corporate approach to social responsibility driven by public relations rather than human rights.
  3. Wendy’s stands alone as the last of the five major fast food corporations in the country not part of the FFP: McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum! Brands and Subway are all doing the right thing and participating in the Program. By refusing to join, Wendy’s is deriving a very real cost advantage over its competitors, while continuing to provide an alternative market for less reputable growers.

It is unconscionable that Wendy’s refuses to support one of today’s most promising models to end poverty and human rights abuses in low-wage industries across the world.


Those farmworkers kids are at risk if their parents can’t make a safe living in the fields. Those juicy tomatoes (now sourced outside Florida) don’t pick themselves. The conditions under which they are picked mean the everything to low-income families. Will they have access to sanitation and shade? Will they be sprayed with pesticides? Will they be paid for their labor? Can they work without the fear of sexual exploitation?


Wendy’s has repeatedly refused to join other food companies in agreements that would guarantee worker conditions and safeguards. Are these farmworker kids somehow less important than little white girls with red braids?

So, regretfully, I am boycotting Wendy’s. Last week, I took part in a rolling fast by clergy to try to pressure this company to do the right thing and join other responsible food vendors in protecting those who work in harsh conditions for low wages. I didn’t eat any tomatoes. But I had water to drink and a clean bathroom, and I didn’t spend the day looking over my shoulder in fear. At the end of the day, I got to giggle with my grandbabies on the phone. I want that for everyone’s mother and grandmother. I want that for everyone’s children.

I hope you will join me in this boycott, and in raising awareness of the needs of those whose labor feeds us every day.