Town of Palm Beach News

Coalition of Immokalee Workers Sue Town of Palm Beach

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Palm Beach over a demonstration, planned for March 12, targeted at Wendy’s. “Never before have we had to sue somebody in order to exercise our First Amendment right to inform consumers about the harmful purchasing choices of companies like Wendy’s.” says Lucas Benitez, co-founder of the CIW. “But for some reason Palm Beach seems determined not to let us march in a way that lets us get our message out effectively”.

In the lawsuit, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers claims that select Palm Beach ordinances, which were put in place to ensure the high quality of living it is famous for, are unconstitutional and make staging a protest impossible. Why do they want to stage a protest in Palm Beach? It all begins with the Fair Food Program.

The CIW’s Fair Food Program establishes a partnership between farmworkers and retail food companies which “ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers”. Many major companies, including Yum Brands and the global giant that is McDonald’s, have joined the Fair Food Program in an attempt to better the lives of the workers who provide them with the much needed produce that make up the lifeblood of their brand.

So what exactly is the CIW’s “beef” with Wendy’s? For starters, according to the CIW, Wendy’s is the only one of the top 5 largest fast food corporations in the country that has yet to join it’s nationally acclaimed Fair Food Program.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The main reason, however, is that Wendy’s has recently started purchasing its tomatoes from Mexico, a decision that has negatively affected local tomato suppliers; as well as their workers.

“Wendy’s has not only refused to join the FFP, but has stopped buying tomatoes from Florida altogether following the implementation of the Fair Food Program there.” the CIW stated, “Rather than support US growers setting new standards for human rights in the agricultural industry, Wendy’s took its tomato purchases to Mexico, where [there is]… widespread denial of human rights in the produce industry…”

Wendy’s response came in a statement from spokesman Bob Bertini who said that the company, which takes “all human rights and labor practices issues seriously”, doesn’t completely agree with the Fair Food Program’s policies. “These individuals are not Wendy’s employees, and we have not thought it appropriate to pay another company’s workers — just as we do not pay factory workers, truck drivers or maintenance personnel that work for our other suppliers,” he added.

In an ambitious attempt to persuade Wendy’s to join the FFP, the CIW took to the streets with large demonstrations in cities such as New York, Columbus, and Gainesville, as well as declared a boycott on the fast food magnate.

With the Town of Palm Beach (which they decided on because it is home to Wendy’s chairman, Nelson Peltz) next in line as a setting for their protest, the CIW found themselves faced with a few obstacles, particularly within Palm Beach ordinance, and therefore filed a lawsuit on some provisions.

In the lawsuit, the CIW claims that the prohibition of loud noise, nongovernmental banners/flags during parades, and the use of loud speakers make it impossible to hold a protest and is unconstitutional.

John Randolph, the town’s attorney, denies that Palm Beach’s codes are unconstitutional, stating that the CIW “was not prohibited from demonstrating within the town” and that “the town’s codes [are] reasonable… and do not impede the ability to demonstrate.”

With the day planned for the demonstration rapidly approaching, the CIW’s Gerardo Reyes states, “We encourage community members to join us and Ethel Kennedy for this historic march on Saturday, March 12. They can also call the Town to tell them to let us march in a way that communicates our message effectively so that we can encourage the leadership of Wendy’s to respect farmworkers’ rights.”

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Jonathan enjoys covering local events and occurrences. His writings encompass a wide range of topics from news to entertainment, oftentimes mixing business with pleasure.

1 Comment

  1. Ted Donahue
    March 19, 2016 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    This town has gone to hell in a hand basket with the complete fold on this demonstration in-town….this should have been fought tooth and nail by the township. What do you suppose will happen should THE DONALD get to the WH???? How many protests do you suppose will be organized in this town? Utterly ridiculous and reflects the flood of Northeasterners to this island seeking political office!

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