On Wednesday afternoon, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) will make its final stop in Tampa on a 12-city “Return to Human Rights Tour.”
There, the CIW will march from a Publix location to a Wendy’s franchise in Tampa, to escalate its national boycott against the hamburger chain.
Both the March and Vigil for Human Rights is a CIW boycott in response to the retailer’s decision to abandon its relationship with tomato growers and shift purchases to Mexico rather than participate in the in its Fair Food Program, a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and fourteen major food retailers, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wal-Mart.
Participants are scheduled to arrive at the Publix Greenwise in Tampa’s Hyde Park neighborhood at 5 p.m. Wednesday (2401 W. Azeele St.) They’ll then take the mile-long walk, concluding with a candlelight vigil at Wendy’s (1615 W. Kennedy Blvd.).
In Florida, the tour also mobilizes consumers to continue calling on Publix Supermarkets to take responsibility for working conditions in its supply chain. Despite growing consumer demand, the Lakeland-based grocer has also refused to join the Fair Food Program.
The CIW launched the national boycott of Wendy’s in 2016 after the company shifted its purchases from Florida to Mexico following the implementation of the Fair Food Program.
“This is not the first time that the CIW, the Florida-based activist group, has staged protests as part of their campaign against our company,” responds Wendy’s spokesperson Heidi Schauer on Wednesday. “This is a commercial dispute — the simple reality is that their actions show that the CIW objects to the fact that we don’t pay fees to their organization. This group orchestrates publicity events and distributes misleading information about our company and our suppliers.
“We do not believe that joining the Fair Food Program is the only way to act responsibly, and we pride ourselves on our relationships with industry-leading suppliers who share our commitment to quality, integrity and ethics. “
Wendy’s has more information on the Fair Food Program here.
“Wendy’s, in a typical corporate response to revelations of abuses in its supply chain, is attempting to obscure its indefensible behavior by smearing the CIW,” responded Steve Hitov, CIW general counsel. “First, nobody pays fees to the CIW to participate in the Fair Food Program, and the penny per pound premium goes directly from the participating buyers to the growers to the workers. Second, it is not in any way misleading to let people know that Wendy’s yanked its tomato purchases from Florida, and moved them to the abusive fields of Mexico, precisely because Florida’s growers decided to respect the human rights of their workers. That is what Wendy’s told the growers when it abandoned them after years of purchasing their tomatoes on a “no questions asked” basis, and no amount of corporate double speak can change that fact.”