Mr. Nelson Peltz
Chief Executive Officer
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Peltz,
I write you today with a simple question: As the chairman of the board of Wendy’s, are you willing to lead the company to take a stand for human rights, at a moment when it seems poised to choose hatred?
Earlier this week, I was appalled to see Wendy’s tweet out a meme that’s been embraced by racists and neo-Nazis, a shocking slip given Wendy’s social media savvy. Wendy’s quickly deleted the tweet, but the damage had been done: one of the leading websites of the Neo-Nazi “alt-right” proudly declared Wendy’s the official hamburger of bigots everywhere, using vile anti-Semitic language that shocks people of conscience. This endorsement is surely not one that Wendy’s wants, but is not one that it has outright rejected. That alone is appalling.
To not publicly condemn hate speech is cowardice–a choice of profits over righteousness. Your inaction is in the same weak spirit that you continue to deny the human rights of the farmworkers who pick the tomatoes in Wendy’s supply chain, remaining a cowardly outlier among your competitors in the fast food industry that have committed to the Fair Food Program of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Last spring, more than 300 rabbis, cantors, and rabbinical students from T’ruah wrote you to urge you to use your position as the Chairman of Wendy’s board to bring Wendy’s into the Fair Food Program. Reminding you of the Jewish values that we share, such as a safe workplace (free from violence and sexual harassment) and paying workers a fair wage, as well as the mandate derived from the Exodus to protect the strangers among us, we demanded that Wendy’s make good on the corporate values it professes. Corporate social responsibility must begin with a commitment to the human rights of workers, rather than merely a desire to assuage the guilt of consumers or protect the reputation of a brand, as Wendy’s unenforceable Code of Conduct currently does.
Then at the the Wendy’s shareholder meeting in May, I stood together with CIW to tell you and the Wendy’s board directly that human rights are a non-negotiable ingredient of a just, sustainable food industry. On behalf of America’s faith community, I urged you to choose meaningful and verifiable rights protections for the workers who pick your tomatoes. Indeed, I warned you that Wendy’s decision to abandon the human rights taking root in the Florida tomato industry–shifting its purchases to a Mexican tomato producer that was in the midst of a federal investigation for holding over 300 men, women and children in abject slavery–was deeply immoral.
But Wendy’s has been silent, both to the promise of the Fair Food Program and now in the face of hatemongers who embrace your brand.
Mr. Peltz, as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which describes itself as “a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context,” you must surely be frightened by the tremendous rise in anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country. The same neo-Nazis who declared Wendy’s their new official hamburger have desecrated synagogues with swastikas, engaged in vicious online attacks on vulnerable populations, and harassed Jewish journalists in their homes.
Today, I ask you to be a leader, not a bystander. When Wendy’s has been declared the official burger of hatred, you must take a stand to make Wendy’s the burger of human rights. Now is the time for Wendy’s to commit to justice for farmworkers and to solidarity with those targeted by bigotry.
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster
Director of Programs
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights