Comedian and actor Amy Schumer has taken to Instagram to call for a boycott of fast food franchise Wendy’s, criticising the chain for failing to provide their workers with adequate protection. In a post shared on Monday, Schumer encouraged her followers to “Please join the @fairfoodprogram and #BoycottWendys link in my bio of how you can help.”
The controversy comes after a successful internet campaign, led by hip hop star Chance The Rapper, persuaded Wendy’s to reintroduce Spicy Chicken Nuggets to their menu. The chain promised to bring back the fan favourite, provided that a tweet shared by the company garnered two million likes. The result social media furore brought international attention and, ultimately, a promise to reincorporate the item in the future.
Despite the general positivity of the campaign, Schumer pointed out that there is more to Wendy’s than paying lip service to fans. Also included in her post was a detailed description of why she was encouraging supporters to boycott the company, writing, “Hey! We love @chancetherapper and hate to be the ones to tell him that Wendys is the only fast food chain refusing to protect farmworker women from sexual assault and rape in the fields. This is true. Please read that sentence again. Message for the people in charge: Instead of spicy nuggets, we want food that is harvested with dignity NOT violence.”
The main issue centres around the “Fair Food Program” tagged in Schumer’s post. The program itself is a "unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms," according to information on its website. As stated in The New York Times, the organisation “benefits around 35,000 labourers in the US and has helped to improve the working conditions for individuals in the tomato industry.”
According to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Wendy’s is yet to join the likes of McDonald's, Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway and Walmart in signing up to the programme, instead refusing “to join the Fair Food Programme and respect the rights and dignity of farmworkers in its supply chain." It is for this reason that celebrities such as Schumer are encouraging action from the public.
Given the size of the Wendy’s brand and the importance of the issue, it’s unsurprising that Schumer is not alone in vocalising her disapproval. “Charmed” star Alyssa Milano also posted her concerns on Instagram, writing, "This is about sexual violence against women in the workplace, the only programme proven to end that violence in the US agricultural industry, and your refusal to join that programme, plain and simple."
In a statement responding to the criticism, Wendy’s protested that it insists that all suppliers adhere to a strict code of conduct, which "includes requirements to human rights and labour practices." The statement went on to add that "This is a complex issue, but be assured that we do not purchase the field grown product that the Fair Food Programme covers. In fact, Wendy’s is proud to only purchase tomatoes from indoor hydroponic North American farms. We are excited about the superior quality of these tomatoes, and this move further strengthens our commitment to responsible sourcing practices by providing safe, indoor working conditions, shelter from the elements and environmental contaminants, reduced water and land use burdens, and a significantly reduced need for chemical pesticides." The campaign to boycott the business remains ongoing.