The CIW’s Return to Human Rights Tour, featuring the mobilization of thousands around the country and a week-long fast on the part of The Ohio State University students and alumni, marked an unprecedented level of action in the Wendy’s Boycott. The commitment of students, people of faith and members of community groups and organizations to strengthening and expanding verifiable human rights for farmworkers rang out clear – and that call is only growing.
Not only did thousands participate in the tour – but millions more consumers read of its message through the news media. As the momentum of the tour surges onwards through a rolling student fast across the country, which started at the University of Michigan yesterday, and a growing swell of action in the Fair Food Nation, today we bring you an impressive roundup of the press coverage of the tour, featuring articles, radio shows, and television stories from Gainesville to Columbus, back to Tampa, and everywhere in between. Share this news with your friends, family, and community, and get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the action!
First up, a piece in the National Catholic Reporter on the week-long fast undertaken by 19 courageous students and alumni at the Ohio State University demanding that the university keep its word and end the contract with Wendy’s until they join the Fair Food Program. The fast – taken on in the long history of peaceful action to reveal injustice – received support from faith groups including the Presbyterian Church (USA), T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and the National Farmworker Ministry.
Rachael Birri hasn't eaten anything in nearly a week. She's only been drinking water and tea, but the liquids don't prevent her stomach from rumbling during class.
"The first two days were rough … I'm relatively tired right now," she said.
Birri, a freshman majoring in environmental science at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, is one of 19 students who started fasting March 20 in response to the university renewing a lease that allows fast-food chain Wendy's to operate a restaurant inside the Wexner Medical Center on campus.
… According to Birri, Ohio State officials had said the school wouldn't renew the lease unless Wendy's joined the Fair Food Program. "Extending the lease was a violation because those requirements were not met," Birri said.
Meanwhile, with student-powered action on the rise around the country, the Student Nation covered the parallel Boot the Braids campaign at the University of Florida:
GAINESVILLE, FL — […] The march in Gainesville was the kickoff for a national CIW protest, the “Return to Human Rights Tour,” which concludes today with a vigil in Tampa. Over the span of two weeks, CIW members and their allies have toured cities across the US to mobilize support for the FFP. The CIW partnered with students at Vanderbilt, UNC Chapel Hill, and Ohio State—whose students completed a week-long fast in solidarity—to demand that their administrators pressure Wendy’s to sign onto the program. The 13-stop tour was the longest protest action of the coalition’s Campaign for Fair Food in the past decade, and included a protest in downtown Columbus, a few miles south of Wendy’s international headquarters, last weekend.
Members of CHISPAS, a UF student organization that focuses on immigrant rights and advocacy, and other UF students have been organizing against Wendy’s since the start of the Boot the Braids campaign. For many of these students, like 20-year-old CHISPAS secretary Lucero Ruballos, the Fair Food Program has directly impacted their lives. […]
[…] Over 90 percent of the Florida’s tomato growers have signed onto the Fair Food Program and farmworkers, including Ruballos’s aunt, have seen their wages and working conditions improve, said Patricia Cipollitti, an organizer with the Alliance for Fair Food.
“This is a program that’s been working,” Cipollitti said. “Farmworkers know their reality the most. They’re the ones who know what changes need to be made. That’s the key piece of this worker-driven model of social responsibility that works, rather than this top-down model of corporate responsibility, where those who design the audits and the systems for monitoring don’t actually have their eyes and ears on the ground or an interest in enforcing these kinds of standards.”
Despite this, Cipollitti said that Wendy’s has only become further entrenched in its opposition to the FFP. As a workaround, Wendy’s no longer purchases from Florida tomato growers and has drafted its own code of conduct, which the Alliance for Fair Food called “completely void of effective enforcement mechanisms to protect farmworker’s human rights.”
In response to Wendy’s entrenchment, the student campaigns have become more complex. This year, Ruballos spearheaded a three-pronged strategy that targeted other organizations on campus for support, reached out to students through marketing and social media, and engaged UF administrators by building up to the march with smaller demonstrations throughout the year. […]
At the end of the two-week tour, a final action in Tampa brought home the message to Wendy’s: This campaign is about strengthening real human rights for farmworkers – and it will continue until you do the right thing. The Tampa Bay Times reports:
A brief protest and candle-light vigil outside the Kennedy Boulevard fast-food restaurant during rush hour Wednesday marked the final stop in the coalition’s 2,000-mile, 12-city “Return to Human Rights Tour.”
One after another, potential Wendy’s customers chatted with police officers and took photos with their cell phones before making a U-turn in the parking lot and heading to the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell or McDonald’s.
“For me it means a lot because I see the changes where I work,” said Cruz Salucio, as he marched across Kennedy Boulevard while scores of Tampa police officers on bicycles held back traffic.
“Before the bosses felt like they could get away with anything and you were in an environment where you weren’t respected,” said Salucio, a 32-year-old who has worked in Immokalee’s tomato fields for about 10 years. “Now we’re starting to get the things that other workers take for granted, like being able to punch in and punch out so there’s a record of how many hours you work, or having access to shade and clean drinking water.”
Other extreme abuses in the fields, such as sexual harassment and wage theft, have also declined dramatically since the FFP’s inception, said the Rev. Noelle Damico, an organizer with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.
Students such 21-year-old Alex Schelle, a social services major at New College of Florida in Sarasota, have spread the movement to campuses across the country. Next week, students at New College will fast to draw attention to the coalition’s efforts, Schelle said.
“It’s really awesome how communities of faith and students can be drawn together to use their consumer powers to let these corporations know that this is already a successful program and all they have to do is join,” Schelle said.
And that’s just the beginning! Below, we share the highlights from each tour stop:
Coverage of Columbus and OSU Fast
“The pain and power of fasting are familiar to us, and we know from experience that it is no small sacrifice. Right now there is always an empty seat at our table for Wendy’s to come sit with us.” – Santiago Perez, CIW
- A 2,000-mile, 12-city protest fights for farmworker rights, Sierra Magazine (31 March 2017)
- Protesters call on Wendy’s to sign worker-protection pledge, Columbus Dispatch (26 March 2017)
- Protesters march in Columbus as part of human rights campaign targeting Wendy’s, ABC Channel 6 (26 March 2017)
- Ohio State students fast, protest against university’s lease renewal with fast-food chain Wendy’s, National Catholic Reporter (24 March 2017)
- Organizations prepare for more protest against Wendy’s, The OSU Lantern (23 March 2017)
- Students look to pressure Wendy’s contract with hunger strike, The OSU Lantern (20 March 2017)
- After Ohio State Extends Wendy’s Lease, Students Fast For Farm Worker Solidarity, WOSU Radio (20 March 2017)
- The Return to Human Rights Tour Columbus, WCRS Columbus (19 March 2017)
- PC(USA) issues letter urging Wendy’s to join Fair Food Program, Presbyterian News Service (15 March 2017)
- Campus Notebook: Mascot change more Franciscan; freshman’s medical invention; solidarity with tomato-pickers, National Catholic Reporter (10 March 2017)
- Wendy’s boycotters to go hungry for Fair Food, New Food Economy (7 March 2017)
City by City Coverage of the Tour
“But, how are colleges extra powerful? … If universities publicly cut ties with companies because they stand for conflicting values which strip people of their human rights, they land a huge blow on the company image. – Ania Szczesniewski, Vanderbilt University
- Students and Farmworkers Are Teaming Up to Boot Wendy’s Off Their Campuses, The Nation (29 March 2017)
- Wendy’s protest spans UF campus, The Independent Florida Alligator (17 March 2017)
- Wendy’s Boycott, Gainesville Sun (16 March 2017)
- Coalition Of Immokalee Workers Protests Wendy’s In Tampa, WGCU (31 March 2017)
- About 200 march on South Tampa Publix, Wendy’s to protest farm-worker exploitation, Tampa Bay Times (29 March 2017)
- Farmworkers, supporters to march in Tampa; continue demands on Wendy’s, Publix, SaintPetersBlog (29 March 2017)
- Immokalee farmworkers will march from Tampa Publix to Wendy’s, WMNF (27 March 2017)
- Still hungry for human rights, Immokalee Workers’ Return to Human Rights Tour stops in Tampa Wednesday, Creative Loafing Tampa (23 March 2017)
- MidPoint Monday March 27: Coalition of Immokalee Workers, WMNF (22 March 2017)
- Students Demand Vanderbilt Cut Ties With Wendy’s, News Channel 5 Network (18 March 2017)
- Where’s Their Beef? Vanderbilt Students Protest University’s Relationship With Wendy’s, Patch.com (20 March 2017)
- SZCZESNIEWSKI: On tolerating human rights violations: Why Wendy’s shouldn’t be on our meal money, Vanderbilt Hustler (13 March 2017)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Protesters march against Wendy’s for fair food and farmworkers rights, The Daily Tar Heel (27 March 2017)
- UNC groups plan march against Wendy’s for farmworker rights, The Daily Tar Heel (23 March 2017)
- Protesters target downtown Madison Wendy’s over farm labor issues, The Cap Times (21 March 2017)
- Farm workers call for human rights at Wendy’s restaurants, Workday Minnesota (20 March 2017)
- Farm workers bring campaign to Twin Cities, Workday Minnesota (16 March 2017)