Following the lead of students #SchoolingWendys this past week, hundreds of members of the Fair Food Nation took action at Wendy’s restaurants to teach the fast food giant a lesson about their failure to become part of the proven solution to farmworker exploitation.
The actions — in cities and towns from San Diego to Providence, St. Pete to Chicago, and of course, here in Immokalee, included “Food Chains” screenings, letter delivery delegations and pickets. And from Duquesne to Southeastern University, from The Ohio State University to the University of Texas at Austin, hundreds of students joined the mounting national student boycott of Wendy’s, reiterating that they will not be purchasing their food until they join their competitors in the Fair Food Program.
Without further ado, we have reports from those on-the-ground in several participating cities and communities:
STUDENTS ACROSS THE NATION
In what was for some the first time taking action in solidarity with farmworkers and for some the dozenth, students across the nation took action to reinforce the call for Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program. Students at campuses with Wendy’s restaurants like UT Austin, University of Michigan, and The Ohio State University launched or continued the flourishing campaign to "Boot the Braids,” and hundreds of other students joined the robust and growing national student boycott of Wendy’s on campuses around the country, from Duquesne to Georgetown to Trevecca to Southeastern to so many in between. Actions included but were not limited to “Food Chains” screenings, letter delivery delegations, and “#BringYourOwnTomato” - consisting of students taking their own tomatoes to Wendy’s demanding that their sandwiches be made with Fair Food tomatoes.
Taking big action in a small state, over 20 members of Fuerza Laboral, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, and students from the Brown Student Labor Alliance, and MEChA de Brown (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan) gathered at a Providence Wendy’s restaurant to carry forward Rhode Islander’s longstanding call to Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program! Not to be deterred by a delayed bus route, they began chanting at the busy bus stop, cheered on by car horns and passersby. Once the group reached the Wendy’s, the students and community organizers began to picket and chant, “Your burgers may be square but your food ain’t fair!” All those in attendance then entered the Wendy’s to deliver a letter to the store manager expressing their demand for Wendy’s to respect farmworker rights, asking that they pass it on so that it might reach Wendy’s CEO. They were rebuffed, but left with an ever-strong commitment to continue their call to Wendy's.
Straight from San Diego is a direct account from a small but committed delegation to the manager! "On Sunday, October 4, five people participated in a letter delivery and picket in front of one of the Wendy’s restaurants located in the city of San Diego. We picketed in front of Wendy’s from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. At 1:15 we went inside Wendy’s and handed in a manager letter. We proceeded to tell her that we were allies of the CIW and customers of Wendy’s, and we were there to urge Wendy’s to get on board with the Fair Food Program.”
During the letter delegation, the manager was informed of Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program and how they remain the final fast food hold out. In the midst of the picket, a few conversations were had. A latino family who’d carried the tradition of going to Wendy’s every Sunday after church vowed not to eat there anymore until they joined the Fair Food Program. There were honks of support as well as comments of disapproval, but the message was delivered either way.
As they celebrated the harvest holiday of Sukkot, T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, took to the web to make their statement to Wendy’s. With tweets demanding that Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program, and a call for constituents to email CEO Emil Brolick, T’ruah emphasized the moral responsibility Wendy’s has to join the Program, ending their email with the following:
“So I ask Wendy's: If not now, when? Corporate values such as "do the right thing" and "treat people with respect" are meaningless when there is a proven solution to abuse in your supply chain. Joining the Fair Food Program is not just about good business for Wendy's. It is a moral imperative. I look forward to the day soon when Wendy's commits to the Fair Food Program.”
In St. Pete, we have a report from SFAer and Quaker Kate Sundberg:
"On Saturday, the Southeastern Yearly Meeting (SEYM) held Fall Interim Business Meeting where Quakers from all over Florida gathered in St. Petersburg. Quaker youth from Miami, Tallahassee, Sarasota, and St. Pete converged to make signs and get ready for an action on Wendy’s for the Schooling Wendy’s Week of Action. Quakers who were led to take action in the streets joined us and we walked to a nearby Wendy’s with beautiful signs, red wigs, and a ton of energy. At Wendy’s we picketed and chanted and a small delegation, consisting mostly of youth, went into the store to talk to the manager. The manager accepted the letter and told us she would pass it on to her boss. People surrounding the Wendy’s were also very curious so we handed out a bunch of flyers with information about the CIW and the Fair Food Campaign. After the action we reported back to the Quakers who were unable to join us, and who were also very supportive of our work and the Fair Food Campaign.”
And at the very heart of the Campaign for Fair Food, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the AFF Immokalee crew paid a visit to a local Wendy’s this past Saturday. Not only surrounded by those present, but also conscious that the message she shared was reverberating around the country, Nely Rodriguez of the CIW spoke with the manager of a Ft. Myers restaurant about the chain’s responsibility to do right by the farmworkers who make their profits possible. Some of the younger CIW members present — in middle school here in Immokalee — carried signs declaring the student boycott to remind Wendy’s that it’s not only university students around the country who are joining the student boycott, it’s students of all ages, including students here in the nucleus of the CIW’s fight for Fair Food.
As the tomato season begins here in Immokalee, blue October skies are overhead, and the New Day of farmworker justice continues to shine ever brighter in Florida tomato fields — and now in tomato fields in Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina, too. The New Day of the CIW’s Fair Food Program means the right to a fair wage. It means zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the fields and zero tolerance for forced labor. It means access to shade, water, and bathrooms, and the right to speak up without fear of retribution. And the New Day means that corporations and growers long complicit in the abuse of farmworkers’ rights are now part of the farmworker-designed solution.
Wendy’s, alone among major fast food corporations, continues to remain in the night of a terrible history of abuse of farmworkers. Wendy’s, the New Day is here and this thriving consumer movement will only grow and grow until you join.
Until then, Halloween is right around the corner — and if memory serves, October 31 has proved in the past to be a scary day for corporations that refuse to respect farmworker rights …