Ann Arbor City Council says Wendy's doesn't do enough to protect farmers, calls for boycott

Council responds to possible new University of Michigan restaurant

By Priya Mann - Reporter, Amber Ainsworth

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - News that a new Wendy's could be coming to the University of Michigan campus led to the Ann Arbor City Council calling for a boycott.

The council and local activists are concerned that the fast-food chain doesn't do enough to protect farm workers. The council voted unanimously Monday to boycott the restaurant after an activist came forward.

"This is the first time a city council has resolved to support this national farm workers movement," said Kimberly Daley, with Washtenaw Solidarity with Farmworkers.

The decision came after the council learned that Wendy's isn't part of the Fair Food Program, an organization designed to protect farm workers.

"The reason this was compelling for me and take it on, is it was a very specific situation that was in our backyard," said Elizabeth Nelson, of the Ann Arbor City Council.

A former agriculture worker said she wants the chain to protect those who supply food.

"What we want is for Wendy’s to protect farmworkers, end wage theft and sexual assault," Silvia Sabanilla said.

In a statement, Wendy's said it was not contacted prior to the council's vote. The company said it "has always been committed to fair wages and human rights for those who supply our food."

Read the full statement below:

"We would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss this issue with the Ann Arbor City Council, but were not contacted prior to this vote. In fact, we are very proud of our business practices and Wendy’s has always been committed to fair wages and human rights for those who supply our food. We have not purchased commodity field-grown tomatoes from Florida for several years, which is the predominant area in which this activist organization operates. Instead, Wendy’s sources higher-quality, vine-ripened tomatoes from suppliers throughout North America, and recently announced a commitment to source all of our tomatoes from indoor greenhouse farms, including farms in Michigan. We are excited about the superior quality of these tomatoes, and this move further strengthens our commitment to responsible sourcing practices by providing safer, indoor working conditions, shelter from the elements and environmental contaminants, reduced water and land use burdens, and a significantly reduced need for chemical pesticides. Michigan agriculture plays an important role in our greenhouse sourcing practices, and we’re excited to see that grow.
 
"As it relates to the Michigan Union, the Wendy’s restaurant on campus was independently owned and operated by a local franchisee. As a brand, we were happy to have been part of the University of Michigan community, but I understand that our franchisee’s lease expired when the school remodeled the building in which the restaurant was housed, and they made the decision to not pursue a new lease a few years ago."

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