USA: Wendy's targeted to buy tomatoes from growers following strict labour standards as part of Fair Food Program

Author: Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Published on: 14 March 2019

"Why Wendy's Is Facing Campus Protests (It's About the Tomatoes)", 7 March 2019

A program... that organizes farmworkers has persuaded companies like Walmart and McDonald’s to buy their tomatoes from growers who follow strict labor standards... Now the group, a nonprofit called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, is raising pressure on one of the most prominent holdouts — Wendy’s...

The Immokalee workers’ initiative, called the Fair Food Program, currently benefits about 35,000 laborers, primarily in Florida... But only 20 to 25 percent of tomatoes in the United States are purchased from growers that take part in the program...

... Wendy’s had ceased buying winter tomatoes from Florida and was importing most of that supply from Mexican farms, where forced labor and physical abuse are common. Wendy’s said the change was unrelated to the Fair Food Program...

Under the Fair Food Program, buyers... agree to pay 1 to 4 cents more per pound of tomatoes. The growers, in turn, agree to pay farmworkers at least the local minimum wage, to which the premium adds a bonus, and to meet a set of labor standards like providing shade and water for workers and ensuring freedom from physical and sexual abuse.

... a Wendy’s spokeswoman, said... the company required its tomato suppliers to submit to third-party reviews of their human rights and labor practices. She said the chain had recently committed to buying all of its tomatoes from indoor greenhouse farms, most of them in the United States and Canada, which “strengthens our commitment to treat people with respect.”... Several experts questioned the value of such reviews, which are often superficial...

In recent weeks, activists affiliated with the Immokalee workers have stepped up pressure at several universities for Wendy’s to sign on to the Fair Food Program...

In the coming years, the Immokalee workers hope to bring their model to a variety of crops in many states, where tens of thousands of workers are still vulnerable to abuses...

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Related companies: Wendy's