A leader within the Presbyterian Church (USA) took part in a protest held outside of Wendy's Dublin, Ohio, headquarters last week, demanding that the fast food chain sign onto the Fair Food Program.
"Wendy's has, for many years, avoided the criteria of the Fair Food Program, even as other companies have joined on," said Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, in a statement about his participation in the May 26 demonstration organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
"We believe, as people of faith, that it is time for Wendy's to adopt the criteria of this program. Thievery in the field, sexual harassment and other abuses have no place in the supply chain of our food. It is right and moral that workers receive a fair wage and just working conditions are established."
According to the Fair Food Standards Council, the Fair Food Program involves among other things independent monitoring of working conditions for farmworkers and the creation of a 'penny-per-pound' premium for farmworkers.
Bob Bertini, spokesman for Wendy's, told The Christian Post that these protests by the CIW and its allies have been going on for several years.
"We have always prided ourselves on our relationships with industry-leading suppliers, and we work with companies who share our commitment to quality, integrity and ethics," said Bertini. "We support the goals of any organization that seeks to improve human rights, but we don't believe we should pay another company's employees — just as we do not pay factory workers, truck drivers or maintenance personnel that work for our other suppliers."
When asked by CP about his opinion of PC(USA) and other religious groups supporting the CIW, Bertini replied that Wendy's "respects the opinions of others that may differ from our own."
"We also we agree that the subject of human rights and labor standards in agriculture is an important one," added Bertini.
"That's why we implemented a comprehensive Supplier Code of Conduct which requires our suppliers to adhere to high standards for integrity and business practices. Instead of focusing on one product in one region of the country, our Code covers all of the products we purchase for our North America business, and in the future, we expect to expand it internationally."
In an interview with CP, De La Rosa explained that he participated in the demonstration to show the Mainline Protestant denomination's support for the CIW's efforts.
"I decided to take part in the demonstration because the PCUSA fully supports the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. I would not be serving the Church as an agency head were it not for our denomination's pursuit of justice for all of God's people," he added.
"Aside from me, Ruth Farrell, coordinator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for National Hunger Concerns in the Presbyterian Hunger Program [were present.]"
De La Rosa's involvement in the protest came as PC(USA) PMA formally adopted a resolution to boycott the national fast food chain.
This is not the first time that PC(USA) leadership has devoted efforts to get Wendy's to adopt the program aimed at improving agricultural workers' rights.
In 2013, PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons announced the Church's involvement in similar protests at Wendy's headquarters.
"At its most basic, the Fair Food Program is about loving our neighbors as ourselves; respecting them, treating them with dignity and working together with them to ensure our common well-being," said Parsons in a statement in 2013.
"We are dismayed that Wendy's has yet to join this proven program and we appeal to CEO Emil Brolick to embody the resolve and foresight he demonstrated while president of Taco Bell when it became the first corporation to sign a fair food agreement with the CIW in 2005."
Another Mainline denomination, the United Church of Christ, has also decided to join the boycott of Wendy's.
"Farm workers are among the most oppressed and exploited workers in the United States," said Edie Rasell, UCC economic justice minister, in a statement released in May.
"I hope UCC members across the country will boycott Wendy's and take other actions to tell the company to join the CIW's Fair Food Program and buy their tomatoes from growers who treat workers with fairness and dignity."