Investor Advocates for Social Justice

Shareholders Calling for Human Rights Protections for Essential Food Chain Workers Prevail at Wendy’s Annual Meeting

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Shareholder proposal emphasized vulnerability of farmworkers in Wendy’s ($WEN) supply chain to COVID-19 and its failure to join the Fair Food Program.

NEW YORK, NY, TUESDAY, MAY 18TH, 2021 – Today shareholders approved a proposal at Wendy’s asking the company to disclose evidence of whether its existing policies effectively protect workers in its food supply chain from human rights violations, including harms from COVID-19 – as well as whether Wendy’s mandates Covid-19 safety protocols for these workers. 

The proposal emphasized that the Presidential Medal-winning Fair Food Program (FFP), which investors have urged Wendy’s to join, has effectively addressed these risks for participating companies through its industry-leading standards, monitoring mechanisms, and unparalleled record of enforcement.  All of Wendy’s major peers, including Burger King ($QSR) and McDonald’s ($MCD) currently participate in the Program. 

Investors are encouraged that the proposal was approved, and believe this will send a signal to Wendy’s that it must join the gold standard Fair Food Program.  The vote comes on the heels of two letters sent to the company last month – one from over 100 investors representing $1 trillion in assets, the other from a coalition of six U.S. state treasurers – demanding that Wendy’s “join the FFP because it is uniquely effective for risk mitigation and compliance in the agricultural industry”.

Presenting the resolution for a vote, Sister Margaret Magee, of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, NY, said: “With a global reckoning over racial justice, and a pandemic that disproportionately harms Brown and Black farmworkers, this is an issue every food retailer must address.  But Wendy’s is falling terribly short, as the only one of its peers not to join the award-winning Fair Food Program.”  

Gerardo Reyes Chavez, who spoke at the AGM on behalf of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers which created the Fair Food Program added, “With this resolution, we demand to know if farmworkers in Wendy’s supply chain have the same right to complain as workers under the Fair Food Program, if they are protected from COVID-19 like workers in the Fair Food Program are, if Wendy’s has eliminated abuses like the Fair Food Program has.  All workers deserve to have a safe workplace and to be treated with dignity, and shareholders deserve to know whether Wendy’s is protecting your investment by protecting workers in its supply chain.”

“This shareholder approval makes clear that investors are seeking evidence that human rights systems are actually working to protect essential workers in the food supply chain. We urge the company to include all the concrete information sought by the resolution, so that we can truly compare Wendy’s efforts to the demonstrated success of the Fair Food Program,” said Mary Beth Gallagher, Executive Director of Investor Advocates for Social Justice, which spearheaded efforts around this resolution.

Although Wendy’s had previously filed a No Action request on the resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to have it omitted from the proxy, the company shifted gears after the SEC denied that request, ultimately urging investors to vote yes.  In reaction, Deb Goldberg, Massachusetts State Treasurer and Receiver-General, said, “I am pleased to see Wendy’s revise its position, and that the proposed shareholder resolution has been passed. However, a vote is still not enough, and its corporate directors should want to do more. I strongly encourage Wendy’s to commit to joining the Fair Food Program. In doing so, they will join their peers in providing a better environment for the people who produce the food we all eat.”

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