The Fair Food Nation puts hope into action on Human Rights Day!



With December upon us, many in our community are preparing to celebrate hope, lent by the stories and values of our different faith traditions. That is, whether we ready ourselves recognizing the halfway mark of the joyful, expectant season of Advent, or remarking the rapid approach of the miraculous nights of Chanukah (and for the students in our community, rejoicing in the semester drawing to a close!). As we reflect on the significance of hope, the words of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Nely Rodriguez come to mind, spoken as she accepted the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom from Want Medal in 2013 for the CIW: “More and more every day, the humanity of farmworkers is being recognized.  Today, we are feeling a light of hope, thanks to the Fair Food Program we created together.”  

In the past weeks, farmworkers have challenged us both to recall the human rights we have won together, and also to determinedly continue to fight for their expansion as we join in solidarity with all facing injustice.  Responding to a call to participate in the Wendy’s Boycott on Human Rights Day, hundreds of people put their commitment to boycott into action over the past week in the streets, in their congregations and communities, and through the power of their pens.  Today we bring you reports from several of those actions -- beginning with some of the AFF’s youngest members.

Human Rights Day Protest in Boston

After participating in the CIW’s “Behind the Braids” tour events in Boston this October and spending months learning about the history of Jewish labor organizing, a group of fifth graders at Boston Workmen’s Circle decided that their community needed to join the Wendy’s Boycott -- so, they organized a 60-person protest this Sunday in front of the Downtown Crossing Wendy’s.  Despite the insults an apparent Wendy’s employee hurled at the group, the young students led the protest with energy and enthusiasm, chanting, “Hold the burgers, hold the shakes!  A penny more is all it takes!”  The Boston Globe reported, including this quote from 10-year-old Jay Rochberg of Cambridge: 

“It’s one thing to see these issues with garment workers in 1912. It’s another thing to see it now in 2016 with farmworkers who can’t support their families because corporations like Wendy’s can’t pay a penny more per pound.”

Wendy’s referred reporters to their October statement on the Fair Food Program, which includes half-truths about their auditing practices, avoids addressing the human rights of workers in their tomato supply chain (largely in Mexico), and lies about the function of the Fair Food Program.  But the Workmen’s Circle students spelled out the truth about Wendy’s clearly in a letter they wrote and read aloud to all gathered.  Here’s an excerpt:  

“Instead of agreeing to the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s is now buying tomatoes from Mexico. We’re here to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and want Wendy’s to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes. Many of the tomato farmworkers can’t support their families. By buying tomatoes from Mexico, you are continuing to support poor labor conditions.”

Flood of Human Rights Day Letters to Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor

Meanwhile, just a day before -- on International Human Rights Day -- members of the National Council of Churches, the Sisters of St. Joseph, allies in Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Tampa, Orlando, Oregon, and Georgia, members of the Riverside Church in New York City, residents at the Stony Point Center in Stony Point, New York, and everywhere in between exercised their voices as consumers to write letters to Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor, demanding that he heed the Wendy’s Boycott and change the company’s egregious record on farmworkers’ human rights.  Here’s what Anne McCudden of Georgia wrote: 

“As I write to you from South Georgia, I can tell you that my community and others around me have joined this boycott and we no longer consume the Wendy’s brand (nor do my siblings and family across the country).  This movement is growing, so I urge you to respect the fundamental human rights of farmworkers in your supply chain by bringing Wendy’s into the Fair Food Program.”

The Little Red Schoolhouse in New York took their letter-writing action further and took their call to a nearby Wendy’s.  They reported, "Today the LREI Farmworker Rights club delivered a letter to the manager of our local Wendy's. We encouraged him to tell his supervisor that all of us, and many more students, have pledged to boycott Wendy's until they sign up with the Fair Food Program. We unfurled a long list of all the people who've signed our petition and flyered around the restaurant. We hope the message makes it's way to Wendy's management and that customers will think twice about spending their money at Wendy's."

Pittsburgh Joins the Wendy’s Boycott

Two weeks ago, Duquesne University Student/Farmworker Alliance invited the CIW to the City of Bridges for a lineup of Fair Food events during Spiritan Campus Ministry’s annual Fair Trade Week, including an interactive tomato bucket relay race activity and a screening of Food Chains. Two full days of classroom presentations, exchanges with community groups, and a solidarity action with Pittsburgh workers calling for respect in the workplace and fair wages, set the stage for a high-energy, 50-person strong Wendy’s Boycott action in Lawrenceville. Members of Pittsburgh UNITED, organizers at the Thomas Merton Center, Duq SFA and USAS Local #31 at the University of Pittsburgh, among others, stood up for farmworkers’ human rights and made the commitment to stay steadfast in taking action in the Wendy’s Boycott until the hamburger giant joins the Fair Food Program.

The Fast Food Grinch

On a very festive note, this past weekend members of the Student/Farmworker Alliance created a series of fantastic videos declaring Wendy’s as this year’s Fast Food Grinch.  You can head over to SFA’s site, for the full selection, but for now, here are a two videos proving Wendy’s heart is a few sizes too small: 

And One More Thing ...

Wendy’s: Consumers’ profound hope and determination to boycott you until you respect workers’ human rights should be clear as day.  But until you join the Fair Food Program and decide to stop losing the business of thousands of consumers, people of faith, students, and grassroots groups around the country, here’s a reminder. Farmworkers have announced their plan to once again take the Wendy’s Boycott all over the country this March with the Return to Human Rights tour.

Fair Food Nation: With stops in a dozen cities over the course of two weeks, we know that by taking action together in the Return to Human Rights tour, we can bring Wendy’s to the table, and we can lift up struggles for justice around the country. Read up on last week’s post for all the details, and start making your plans to join us in Columbus as we bring the Wendy’s Boycott home!