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With Wendy's board chairman and island resident Nelson Peltz as their target audience, farmworkers with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their supporters plan to protest and march in Palm Beach on Saturday during the “March to End Modern Slavery in the Fields.”
They are seeking the Wendy’s restaurant chain's help to "end modern slavery in the fields by joining the Fair Food Program," the organization said in a release. The program "brings together farmworkers, growers, and retail food companies to promote and protect human rights in agriculture through the prevention of modern-day slavery, sexual assault, verbal and physical abuse, systemic wage theft and retaliation," according to its website.
McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Yum! Brands and Chipotle, as well as major grocers and food service companies such as Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Aramark and Compass, have joined the Fair Food Program, the coalition said.
But in a statement to the Daily News on Thursday, a Wendy’s spokesperson said the Dublin, Ohio-based company has only used tomatoes grown indoors in greenhouses for the past three years.
Wendy's "does not participate in the Fair Food Program because there is no nexus between the program and our supply chain. Since 2019, Wendy’s has sourced our North American tomato supply exclusively from indoor, hydroponic greenhouse farms, while the Fair Food Program predominantly operates in outdoor, conventional tomato growing environments," the statement said.
"Further, Wendy’s has an established Supplier Code of Conduct that applies to significant suppliers of The Wendy’s Company and our North America restaurant system, and we also require third-party reviews related to the human rights and labor practices for suppliers of certain hand-harvested, whole, fresh produce such as tomatoes.
"The idea that joining the Fair Food Program, and purchasing field-grown, commodity tomatoes, is the only way that Wendy’s can demonstrate responsibility in our supply chain is not true."
Participating in the march, the organization said, will be Kerry Kennedy, an attorney who is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy, andArchbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski. Kennedy's mother attended a similar march organized in Palm Beach by the group in 2016, the year the coalition's campaign targeting Wendy's began.
That march generated controversy because of geographic limits the town had set on the march. In the end, about 500 people protested through town streets on March 12, 2016, and the town later paid more than $160,000 in attorneys' fees and costs after a federal lawsuit filed by the march organizers.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers sued the town in U.S. District Court to determine the legal limits of the demonstration. The coalition initially said the town should pay nearly $300,000 in attorneys' fees and costs for the hours its four attorneys and a paralegal spent on the suit, which challenged town ordinances the group said interfered with protesters' First Amendment rights to free speech and public assembly.
Saturday's demonstration is scheduled to begin with people gathering at 11:30 a.m. in Bradley Park, with the march starting at 12:30 p.m., organizers said. The group will make its way south before crossing the Royal Park Bridge into West Palm Beach and walking along Olive Avenue and Flagler Drive, the planned route shows. The group is then expected to re-enter Palm Beach via the Flagler Memorial Bridge and finish the event at Bradley Park.
Police: Expect traffic delays
A statement issued Thursday by the Palm Beach Police Department said residents may encounter traffic delays during the demonstration and encouraged them to plan their travel needs accordingly.
Police said the following streets would be affected: the 200 block of Sunset Avenue; South County Road from Sunset Avenue to Worth Avenue; the 200 block of Royal Palm Way; Worth Avenue; and South Lake Drive.
The department "will be monitoring the demonstration and will have security and traffic measures in place. There are no known community safety concerns, and we are only anticipating traffic disruption at this time," it said in the release.
Nely Rodriguez, senior staff member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, told the Daily News Thursday that if Wendy's were to join the Fair Food Program, that would help to make "significant strides to end abuses in the field such as modern-day slavery and sexual assault."
Rodriguez said with Saturday's march the organization is hoping "to bring Wendy's to dialogue with us and put pressure on Wendy's top decision-maker."
She cited the Fair Food Program as the most effective tool to eliminate and prevent abuses in American agriculture.
The coalition also said it is calling for accountability from other Wendy’s board members, including Peltz’s son, Matthew Peltz, and Trian Fund Management co-founder Peter May, who is a seasonal Palm Beacher.
Carol Rose is a journalist at the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at email@example.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Wendy's board chair is target of farmworkers Saturday march in Palm Beach