Alyssa Milano is calling out Wendy’s in the wake of controversy facing the fast food giant.
On March 15, female farmworkers and supporters took over the streets of New York City, and according to the Huffington Post, fasted for five days outside the offices of Wendy’s board chairman and hedge fund investor Nelson Peltz to demand the restaurant chain join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers‘ Fair Food Program. The march was also an effort to shine a light on the women who are in need of support during the current Me Too movement taking place across several different industries.
Milano, 45, posted a statement to her Facebook page on Wednesday, defending farmworker women who have claimed they were “forced to work without pay, trapped for months at a time in scorpion-infested camps, often without beds, fed on scraps, and beaten when they tried to quit,” according to Harper’s Magazine.
“These incredible women, who come from one of the harshest working environments in the U.S. and who put food on our tables, are a shining example in the fight to protect the dignity and safety of all women,” Milano says. “They have not only shone a light on the routine abuse that farmworker women face, but they have built a proven solution to bring that abuse to an end, and have become an example to millions of women across industry lines.”
By joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which is an organization led by farmworkers, people will be better protected from sexual abuse and harassment under the Fair Food Program. The program “ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms,” according to fairfoodprogram.org. So far, McDonald’s, Walmart, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC have agreed to participate in the program. Workers who marched told the Huffington Post that the program will also ensure they are able to take breaks and vacation days without being fired.
According to boycott-wendys.org, the burger chain stopped buying tomatoes from Florida when the Fair Food Program was incorporated there. Now they buy their tomatoes from Mexico, “where workers continue to confront wage theft, sexual harassment, child labor, and even slavery without access to protections.”
Heidi Schauer, a spokesperson for Wendy’s, told the Huffington Post they buy tomatoes from Mexico because of the higher quality tomatoes available in the winter.
“There’s no new news here, aside from the CIW trying to exploit the positive momentum that has been generated by and for women in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement to advance their interests,” Schauer said.
Milano, who has been a voice during the Time’s Up movement, which helps fight sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and beyond, responded to Schauer’s “shocking” comment, writing: “Wendy’s, this is very simple: These women are the #MeToo movement, which is a grassroots movement of women from all corners of society exposing the painfully common experience of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault. The Time’s Up movement was created in part to ‘lift up the voices, power, and strength of women working in low-wage industries.’ ”
To donate to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which will provide subsidized legal support to women and men in all industries who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace, visit its GoFundMe page. Learn more about Time’s Up, an organization of women in entertainment combating sexual harassment and inequality, on its website.
She continues: “To suggest that farmworker women—whose voices, power, and strength were on impressive display in front of the offices of Wendy’s Board Chairman all last week during their Freedom Fast—are somehow unwelcome intruders in the fight for dignity and safety for women is downright absurd and unbelievably offensive. And that such a statement was made by a company like Wendy’s, who pulled their purchases entirely from ‘the best working environment in American agriculture’ and now partners with an industry with well-documented human rights abuses, including sexual violence, is even more outrageous. I stand with our sisters in the fields, and applaud their efforts to expand the new protections guaranteed in the Fair Food Program to the millions more women who are seeking change.”
The actress ended her statement, which was applauded by fellow actress Amy Schumer, with a word of advice for the company.
“If you really want to get on the wrong side of the Time’s Up movement, keep using our name to attack and belittle farmworker women who are fighting to keep themselves and their sisters safe from rape in the fields.”
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Wendy’s responded to the controversy: “This has been an ongoing campaign against Wendy’s and this group is spreading false and misleading information about the brand and our business practices in their continuing effort to extract a financial commitment from us. At Wendy’s, we have long upheld high standards of quality, and a strong commitment to human dignity throughout our business and our supply chain; we have no tolerance for anything less. All of our suppliers are bound to a strict Code of Conduct that requires ethical practices, and certain fresh produce suppliers, including all tomato suppliers, undergo third-party certified human rights assessments.”