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July 13, 2015

Farmworkers, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Leaders to Hold Vigil at Wendy’s to Urge Fast Food Giant to Join Social Responsibility Program

On Sunday, July 19 at 6:15 p.m., organizations and members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from the U.S. and Canada, in attendance at the Disciples of Christ General Assembly, will join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — an award-winning organization of Florida farmworkers — for a Farm Worker Support Vigil at Wendy’s on 2020 N. High Street in Columbus. Together, they will call on the Dublin based burger giant to join its fast food competitors in supporting the Fair Food Program (FFP), a groundbreaking collaboration that has won praise from the White House to the United Nations for its unique success in addressing decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation’s trillion-dollar food industry.

“For the first time ever, tens of thousands of farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields are guaranteed basic human rights, like the right to shade and water and freedom from sexual harassment and slavery,” said Julia de la Cruz, member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “We have an opportunity to expand those rights to other crops and states, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands — but in order for the workers in Wendy’s supply chain to be guaranteed such rights, they must commit to joining the Fair Food Program.”

What: Farm Worker Support Vigil at Wendy’s calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, a proven solution to abuse in the fields.

Who: Sponsors include Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, and the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Columbia, in partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Ohio Fair Food Network.

When: Sunday, July 19 at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Wendy’s, 2020 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43201

Background:

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): The denomination is holding its North American General
Disciples have actively supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers since almost the beginning of the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, when Disciples Home Missions endorsed CIW’s boycott of Taco Bell prior to it becoming the first corporate signatory of the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick was the President of Taco Bell at the time, stating upon the signing, “We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution,” and adding, "We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.” Ten years later, Wendy’s, under Brolick’s leadership, has not only refused to join the Program, but of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), McDonald’s and Wendy’s — only Wendy’s is not participating in the Fair Food Program.

In 2014, Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada was one of over twenty heads of religious communions to write a letter to Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick, which stated in part, “We are perplexed and alarmed at Wendy’s posture on this issue of basic human rights. The call for society to recognize that our lives are intertwined, that our decisions and actions impact one another, and that we have a moral responsibility to ensure human well-being is as ancient as the command, ‘love thy neighbor.”

Disciples were founding members of the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM) in 1971, and many of its members have repeatedly sought to support justice for the nation’s nearly 2 million farm workers through fair wages, workers’ rights, and empowerment training. “The CIW’s Fair Food Program has helped halt the abuses of modern day slavery and directly increased worker wages by building innovative partnerships between farm workers, growers, and corporations. Such partnerships witness to the call of the prophet Isaiah to ‘correct oppression’ (Isaiah 1:17) and to God’s blessing upon those who ‘hunger and thirst for justice (Matthew 5:6)” said Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Disciples Director of Refugee & Immigration Ministries.

The Fair Food Program (FFP): The FFP is an historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and twelve multibillion-dollar tomato retailers. By committing to the FFP, participating retailers require more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers, agree to purchase exclusively from those who meet these higher standards, and pay a “penny-per- pound” premium which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers.

The FFP was heralded in the Washington Post as “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” and in a White House report “one of the most successful and innovative programs” for combating modern-day slavery. Since 2011, participating buyers have invested more than $17 million into the Fair Food Program, supporting the first significant pay increase for workers in over 30 years.

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