Friday, May 20, 2016

A Bar Mitzvah party funded by exploiting workers?

Mazal tov, Nelson Peltz!

We share your joy in celebrating the bar mitzvah of your twin sons.

Bar mitzvah marks a young man’s coming into an age of responsibility. The Jewish community welcomes our young men and women into the world of mitzvot, of Jewish obligations. We look forward to seeing young Zachary and Gregory stepping into this role of making important decisions about their lives, about their Jewish observance, and about how they interact in the world.

In our Boston congregation, the b’nai mitzvah students demonstrate their commitment to others by taking on a community service mitzvah. In 2011, when T’ruah and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) called on us to speak to Trader Joe’s managers and executives to convince them to sit down at the table with migrant tomato pickers, our students showed up at our local Trader Joe’s with signs and petitions. It didn’t take long for Trader Joe’s to learn that consumers care about where their produce comes from. They didn’t want to buy or sell tomatoes that were associated with slavery, violence, or sexual harassment. Trader Joe’s joined the CIW’s Fair Food Program in 2012, leading to real change for farm workers and their families.

What is Nelson Peltz teaching his sons at their bar mitzvah celebration? While Peltz lavished them with a $2 million dollar celebration, featuring a hockey rink, stilt-walkers, and celebrities, he continues to refuse to even sit at a table with the workers of the CIW. Peltz, as head of Trian Partners, is the largest shareholder in Wendy’s—the last major fast-food corporation to refuse to talk to the CIW. 

While Peltz and his family enjoyed a bar mitzvah that celebrates wealth, he and his corporation profit from human rights abuses in the tomato fields.

Not only has Wendy’s refused to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, which has unparalleled enforcement (with market consequences) of its human rights protections for Florida’s migrant workers, Wendy’s has abandoned the Florida growers to buy tomatoes from notorious growers in Mexico. 90% of Florida growers are part of the Fair Food Program, supported by 14 major food retailers such as Taco Bell, McDonalds, Subway, Burger King (in other words, all of Wendy’s competitors), Walmart, and Whole Foods. But Wendy’s doesn’t seem to care about true prevention of slavery, worker exploitation, violence, wage theft, or sexual harassment. Instead, Wendy’s chooses to buy cheaper tomatoes from known human rights abusers.

Today, our synagogue students are spreading the word to boycott Wendy’s, until they show real commitment to supporting farm workers rights by joining the Fair Food Program. Recently, the students sent Mr. Peltz their own messages about why he should represent justice, compassion, and fairness.

We hope that the Peltz bar mitzvah was a joyous occasion. And we also hope that the lessons of bar mitzvah are more than self-congratulations and conspicuous consumption. A Jewish education stresses justice, compassion, and acting for a better world for all. 

As one of our synagogue’s students wrote to Nelson Peltz, urging Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, “Your parents would ground you for this.”