Volume 9.04 | April 12, 2021
In this Issue:

Wendy's Shareholder Proposal to Come to a Vote

Book Review: Four Hundred Souls

Book Review: Let Us Dream

From the Office of Communications
Bem-vinda Primavera! Welcome, Spring! ¡Bienvenida a la primavera!
Photo submitted by Margaret Mary Kimmins OSF. Spring flowers begin to bloom at St. Elizabeth Motherhouse in Allegany, NY.
Wendy's Set to Vote on Shareholder Proposal From Franciscan Sisters of Allegany
By: Denise Bunk-Hatch, Communications Director, Franciscan Sisters of Allegany
On May 18, 2021, the Wendy’s Corporation will hold its Annual Shareholders Meeting. As part of that meeting, stockholders with the company will have the opportunity to vote on a proposal put forth by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, with the help of Investor Advocates for Social Justice (IASJ).

The Proposal, titled "Protecting Essential Food Chain Workers' Rights During COVID-19,” asks Wendy's to disclose evidence of whether its existing policies effectively protect workers at its food supply chain from human rights violations, including harms from COVID-19-- as well as whether Wendy's mandates COVID-19 safety protocols for them, according to Sr. Gloria Oehl, who works with the IASJ.

While the proposal itself does not specifically ask Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, it does mention that joining the FFP would solve the problem of what is believed to be an ineffective supplier monitoring system currently in place.

What is the Fair Food Program?
The Fair Food Program is a partnership program ensuring fair wages and humane working conditions for workers on farms picking fruits and vegetables used by retail food companies. Member companies include McDonalds, Burger King, Chipotle, Taco Bell, Walmart, and Aramark, and the program covers growers throughout the east coast of the United States.

Member buyers suspend purchases from Participating Growers if they are found to be in violation of human rights or allow for a hostile work environment. For example, if a participating farm is found to be utilizing forced labor or to have protected a supervisor who sexually assaulted a farmworker, the farm is suspended from the FFP and participating buyers in turn stop purchasing from that farm.

All participating growers are audited annually by the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC). The FFSC also operates a worker complaint hotline that is both multilingual and staffed 24/7.

Why is this Important?
Historically, this industry has had a strong connection with human trafficking/modern day slavery. The industry remains rife with human rights violations, sexual harassment, and poverty wages.
Wendy’s was approached over 10 years ago about joining the Fair Food Program and remains the lone holdout. Wendy’s argues that joining the FFP is unnecessary, as:

  • They source from greenhouses, not farms;
o Greenhouses do not have fewer human rights risks than farms.
  • They are smaller than other companies who have joined the FFP;
Chipotle has roughly ½ the total sales of Wendy’s and is an FFP member.
  • It is expensive to implement and they already provide protections for workers.
The FFP is an effective risk management system. Wendy’s fails to provide concrete evidence that current systems are equivalent and effective.
Participating FPP Buyers pay the “penny per pound” Fair Food Premium which is then passed on to workers as bonus pay.

While the proposal up for vote next month does not ask Wendy’s to become a member of the FFP, it is hoped that continued pressure will convince them to follow the lead of their peers and join what is seen as the “Gold Standard” for supplier monitoring in the food industry.

For additional information:

Wendy’s Annual Report and Meeting information: https://www.irwendys.com/financials/annual-report-and-proxy/default.aspx
Book Review: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019
By: Kathy Doyle
The stories in Four Hundred Souls begin to unfold in 1619, a year before the Mayflower, when the ship, White Lion, disgorges "some 20-and-odd Negroes" onto the shores of Virginia. This would be the beginning of the African presence in what would become the United States and it serves as the starting point to this epic project. Co-edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, this book is essentially a collection that brings lesser-known historical events to the forefront, with noteworthy contributions from a range of writers, historians, journalists, activists, and more—these ninety leading Black voices give us a unique history lesson that successfully balances historical and personal context.

Each of the writers take on a five-year section of the four-hundred-year span. Each approaches their period differently, ranging from poetry to historical essays to short stories to fiery polemics to social calls to action to personal testimonies and more, to tell stories both familiar and remarkably unfamiliar. We learn about historical icons and unsung heroes, ordinary people, and collective movements. There are names you might expect to read that don’t make an appearance, while other names will have you exploring and researching and digging deeper wondering how this is a person or a place or an event of which you've never heard.

For example, in 1775 David George, founded the Silver Bluff Baptist Church in South Carolina; the first Black Baptist church in the United States. And in 1780, in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Freeman, also known as Mumbet, was the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit! The endless resilience of Black people in history goes on and on. Overall, this expansive work proves that African American history is American history.

One reviewer stated, “I found myself informed yet called to seek greater knowledge. I found myself convicted, convicted of ignorance and even willful blindness of truth and history… I am more aware, it seems, yet also more aware of how unaware I really am. This is not the white man's history of African America nor is it a simple glossing over for Black History Month. It is a community history of African America brought to life by essential Black voices telling essential Black stories through a Black lens and perspective with a fullness and a deep, soulful appreciation of what it has meant, does mean, and will mean to be Black in America.”

This sharing of personal accounts really adds a human element to the history. It is one thing to hear how African Americans were ill-treated and oppressed, but it is quite another to be told about a specific person, and what their life was like. It reminds us that these were individual people, just like us, who had hopes and dreams and fears; and it makes the hardships that they endured seem more vivid and real.
As always in a collection of essays, some are more likely to resonate than others yet there's truly no weak link here. In Four Hundred Souls I was especially struck by the fact that in 1643 (just 22 years after their arrival on Virginia’s shores), Black women were legally “designated as fundamentally different, in body and character, from other women (white and Indigenous) in colonial society”. The Virginia General Assembly codified that all youths of sixteen years of age and upwards and all negro women from the age of sixteen were titheable persons.” The tithe, to be paid to the ministers of the colony (in support of the Church of England), for each designated person was four pounds of tobacco and one bushel of corn. This meant that black women whether indentured, enslaved or free were assessed the tax. This law led the way to the inhumane and defeminizing consequences suffered by African and African-descended women not just in Virginia but throughout the colonies and beyond.

Personally, I found this book much easier to read than Ibram X.Kendi’s other recent book, Caste. Each chronological unit is only 4 pages, so you can easily pick it up and put it down. While Caste traces the history of racism, especially of Blacks, back to the earliest of times and shows how the concept of “caste” was/is integrated into our present-day reality, not just in the U.S. but around the world, Four Hundred Souls is less weighty and more intimate and personal. 

This book is a real eye-opener. I admit that I ‘became aware of how unaware I am’.
Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh
Book review by Margaret Magee OSF
The American Psychological Association published an article on September 25, 2020 entitled COVID-19 Spurs Anxious, Upsetting Dreams. It stated, “The anxiety, stress and worry brought on by COVID-19 is not limited to daytime hours. The pandemic is affecting our dreams as well, infusing more anxiety and negative emotions into dreams and spurring dreams about the virus itself, particularly among women.” Dreaming is essential to our mental, spiritual and emotional health. Dreams, it is believed, help us to process the events of the day, resolve problems and deal with life’s situations and challenges. Dreams may enhance creativity and assist in seeing broader possibilities for the future.

In light of this scientific insight, it is truly a gift that the newest book by Pope Francis and his biographer Austen Ivereigh is a call and invitation to dream a path to a better future. In his down-to-earth manner, Francis shares three critical events in his own life and how those challenged him to think and respond differently and with more compassion.

Of great interest to me is how Pope Francis describes the process of the synod. The word synod means “walking together” and requires deep and open discernment. This spoke to me of the communal discernment process that we are using in our Assemblies and in preparation for Chapter. Read the following quote replacing the words “synodal” and “Synod” with the words communal discernment.
“What characterizes a synodal path is the role of the Holy Spirit. We listen, we discuss in groups, but above all we pay attention to what the Spirit has to say to us. That is why I ask everyone to speak frankly and to listen carefully to others because, there, too, the Spirit is speaking. Open to changes and new possibilities, the Synod is for everyone an experience of conversion. Hence one of the changes in the process: periods of silence between speeches to allow those in attendance to be better aware of the motions of the Spirit.”

Francis’ writing and his call to communal discernment is to recognize our shared journey and commitment to live our mission and charism as sisters and associates together. To know ourselves, though separated in this Covid lockdown, yet always united in our commitment to live and witness to the gospel and to be the presence of Christ in and for our world today.

Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future is an excellent reflection not only for our Chapter preparation but also for engaging, imagining and working together to create a future guided by the Spirit. Pope Francis calls us to renew our communal desire to live life generously and abundantly to ensure the generativity and the enduring spirit of our Franciscan charism. 
From the Office of Communications
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Welcome spring! It seems like this past winter - although not particularly cold or snowy here in Allegany - dragged on longer than normal. A lot of this feeling is likely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and while there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are still not out of the woods with this virus.

However, as more of us get vaccinated and communities begin to reopen, event cancellations and "Zoom" meetings will be a thing of the past. With this in mind, I am hoping to return the e-newsletter to its normal, twice-monthly publication schedule beginning with this edition.

I welcome any and all submissions you may have as we all move towards a new normal throughout the rest of this spring and the upcoming summer. While I'm sad that we won't be holding Chapter in-person this July, I am thankful for the gifts of technology that will still allow us to come together for this important event.

Thank you in advance for the articles, pictures, reflections, and reviews I know you will contribute!