Ethel Kennedy led a protest in a wheelchair near the home of Wendy’s billionaire chairman Nelson Peltz. Saturday’s peaceful march involved hundreds of protesters, many of them farmworkers, who are struggling to make a living while the fast food chain is making a profit.
As My Palm Beach Post reports on March 13, the hundreds of people walking through West Palm Beach and Palm Beach included farmworkers, religious leaders, students, and consumers. The march was organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who teamed up with the Alliance for Fair Food and the Student/Farmworker Alliance.
Ehtel Kennedy led the protest in a wheelchair while people were holding signs, wearing T-shirts, and chanted. One participant, who was on the back of a lead truck, used a megaphone to guide the group of protesters. “Boycott … “ he shouted, and others answered, “Wendy’s!”
In contrast to other fast food chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway or Burger King, Wendy’s is resisting in signing onto the Fair Food Program that promotes workers’ rights in the fields:
“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.”
“The Program has been called ‘the best workplace-monitoring program’ in the US in the New York Times, and ‘one of the great human rights success stories of our day’ in the Washington Post, and has won widespread recognition for its unique effectiveness from a broad spectrum of human rights observers, from the United Nations to the White House.”
The Fair Food Program has been publicly endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter, President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry, and is currently active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and New Jersey. However, Wendy’s does not feel that it has any responsibility in regard to farmworkers.
Wendy’s billionaire chairman Nelson Peltz, is a 73-year-old investor with a net worth of $1.35 billion. According to Forbes, he is the 423rd richest American. Triarc, one of Peltz’s companies, bought Wendy’s in 2008 for $2.3 billion — and he became chairman.
Tomato harvesters make an average of about $10,000 during a six-month season and earn 50 cents for every 32-pound basket they can fill. While the Fair Food Program believes that the fast food chain could easily add $20 to $150 to the farm workers’ weekly checks, Wendy’s – in contrast to McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Taco Bell – is arguing, “farmworkers are not Wendy’s employees and it doesn’t feel it is appropriate to pay another company’s workers.”
Ethel Kennedy, who led the protest that ended near Peltz’s home, is obviously disagreeing with the company’s lack of responsibility.
Kennedy, along with the hundreds of protesters, are hoping of convincing Wendy’s to pay a penny-per-pound fee for its tomatoes in order to supplement at least the wages of some farmworkers.
Even at the age of 87, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s widow is continuing a lifetime of advocacy for environmentalism and dedication to standing up for social justice, human rights, and poverty reduction. By leading the protest, Ethel Kennedy shows that one is never too old to fight for change in the world.