Truthout - April 2019
Since January 2013, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been mounting an effort to pressure Wendy’s to participate in its Fair Food Program, which ensures better wages and safer working conditions for Florida’s tomato pickers. The CIW has been organizing in Florida for over two decades, and its efforts have been widely recognized for improving the lives of thousands of farmworkers.
The New York Times noted in a recent article that the CIW “has persuaded companies like Walmart and McDonald’s to buy their tomatoes from growers who follow strict labor standards,” but that “high-profile holdouts have threatened to halt the effort’s progress.” The CIW is now “raising pressure on one of the most prominent holdouts — Wendy’s — which it sees as an obstacle to expansion.” The CIW and its supporters have launched a campaign to get officials at colleges campuses with Wendy’s restaurants to “either remove the chain from campus or block it from doing business there in the future,” according to the Times.
One big fact the Times article failed to note is that the real power behind Wendy’s is a prominent hedge fund run by a well-known Trump donor who owns a $123.1 million Palm Beach estate that sits next to one of Trump’s former properties.
Trian Partners is a Wall Street power player that oversees $11 billion in assets. Its CEO is Nelson Peltz, a famous billionaire investor. Trian Partners has a 12.4 percent ownership stake in Wendy’s, and Peltz and Trian’s two other co-founders also have significant personal holdings in the company. The fast food chain is one of the hedge fund’s prized portfolio companies.
Trian and Peltz are not passive owners of Wendy’s. Peltz has a reputation as a hands-on, activist investor in his companies. He is Wendy’s board chair, and Peter May, Peltz’s longtime partner and Trian’s president and co-founder, is the vice chair of Wendy’s board. Peltz’s son Matthew also sits on the board of Wendy’s. Trian has been invested in Wendy’s since 2005.
Through years of high-profile organizing, the CIW has convinced major retailers and fast food chains to buy tomatoes from Florida growers — 90 percent of U.S. winter tomatoes are produced in Florida — that meet specific standards around working conditions, and to pay an extra 1 to 4 cents per pound of tomatoes that goes to tomato pickers so they can receive a decent wage.