Sometimes when a mask comes off, the face you see is not pretty.
Wendy — the cute, freckled, red-haired symbol of the international hamburger chain — has developed a split personality in the years since founder Dave Thomas ran the company.
Nice Wendy is the person that Wendy’s corporate executives want you to see. She believes in the foundational values of the company, such as “Do the right thing,” “Treat people with respect,” and “Give something back.” These values have driven Wendy’s support of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and other charitable enterprises over the years.
One might think that these values would inspire Wendy’s leadership to support the efforts of the Alliance for Fair Food to ensure fair pay and safe working conditions to the farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes used in its products. This would mean signing on to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program, committing to pay farmworkers an extra penny per pound for the tomatoes they harvest, and to source their tomatoes only from growers who adhere to a code of conduct monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council that protects the human rights of farmworkers.
Greedy Wendy knows better. What began as Dave Thomas' sincere desire to “give something back” when the company was a family enterprise has become a cynical public relations tool with one purpose: to boost the corporation's public image — and by doing that, keep its profits high.
Charity is easy. It doesn't cost much, it makes you feel good, and it makes people like you. What's more difficult is a real commitment to fair labor practices that make charity unnecessary. For a company that sells food products, when sourcing its ingredients it means considering other factors besides getting them at the cheapest price.
Greedy Wendy hides behind the Nice Wendy mask. For Halloween, members of the Student/Farmworker Alliance at college campuses across the country found creative ways to unmask Greedy Wendy. In Columbus, Ohio, the birthplace of Wendy's, Ohio State University students held a protest outside a Wendy's restaurant. Four protesters dressed as Greedy Wendy tried to enter the store to deliver a letter to the manager and pass out fliers. Their faces wore sinister expressions and their costumes appeared to be smeared with blood. They were turned away at the door.
Greedy Wendy may think she won this round. But on the sidewalk outside the store, the public got to see her real face.