November saw various lively actions across several states — including an action at the Wendy’s Headquarters in Dublin, Ohio — to pressure the corporation to expand award-winning human rights protections under the Fair Food Program to farmworkers in its supply chain. See below for the full report!
A day after members of the Sarasota Friends Meeting (Quakers) visited Immokalee to learn more about the Fair Food Program, they teamed up with farmworkers and New College of Florida (NCF) students for a spirited action in their hometown! On Sunday, November 11, farmworkers, NCF Students Targeting Oppressive Powers, Quakers, Tampa Bay International Workers of the World and Sarasota community members protested at a Wendy’s on busy S. Tamiami Trail. Spreading the word to passersby, including workers from the hospital across the street and countless cars that zipped past, the Sarasota community reminded Wendy’s that they can’t continue avoiding their responsibility to farmworkers— it’s just a matter of time. Representatives from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), NCF, and the Sarasota Quakers grounded those present in the power of their action: creating a world where sexual harassment and assault is non-existent by expanding worker-driven social responsibility programs like the Fair Food Program!
Smiling through the November Philly snow, allies from Reconstructing Judaism joined the CIW in marching to a local Wendy’s, where they quickly worked through the stacks of flyers they’d brought along to inform people of the fight for farmworker rights. The march started at the “Rooted and Relevant: Reconstructing Judaism in 2018,” convention, which had nearly 800 people in attendance, including representatives of the CIW and Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) who had been invited by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and Rabbi Barbara Penzer of Temple Hillel B’nai Torah.
Reconstructing Judaism trains the next generation of Reconstructionist rabbis, supports and uplifts congregations and fellowship circles, fosters emerging expressions of Jewish life, and encourages people to be their best selves. Reconstructionists approach Judaism — and life — with deep consideration of the past and a passion to relate it to the present. In this context, the CIW and AFF had the opportunity to highlight many Jewish allies’ deep commitment to the human rights work of the CIW through lectures in rabbinical schools, the annual visit of #TomatoRabbis to Immokalee, Boycott petition signatures and nationwide protests, such as the snowy Philadelphia march!
On November 17, over 100 students from Barry University and St. Thomas University came out for a student-organized march with the CIW from a local park to the Wendy’s on 167th Avenue. After returning from the mile-long march and picket, the crowd heard from fellow students as well as Nely Rodriguez from the CIW.
Nely’s powerful message is shared below in full:
For us, this isn’t new. Wendy’s has always had an attitude of avoidance of its social responsibility to not only its consumers, but to us as workers, and to all students and people who eat from its stores.
It is important for us as workers to share with you students what is happening. Exploitation, rape, sexual harassment of women, forced labor, and low wages have all existed for countless generations within the agricultural industry. This is something that many outside the agricultural industry don’t know. It’s so beautiful that you all are accompanying us today as you also take up the responsibility to refuse to be manipulated by corporations.
For many of you, you have ancestors who have been affected by this type of power held by all types of corporations in various industries. This is not only happening in the agricultural industry but in many other industries: garment, construction, cleaning, food service, for example. We are living this exploitation. You all have the opportunity to support and be that voice we have been lacking. That is your responsibility. It’s great that you all have the chance to see the attitude of these corporations and how they run from responsibility.
The Fair Food Program is a tremendous opportunity for Wendy’s, who has bought large quantities of tomatoes from the agricultural industry for many years. The Fair Food Program is a relief for farmworkers. Wendy’s does not want to join this Program, not because they simply don’t want to accept. Wendy’s doesn’t want to join because it doesn’t want to let go of its ego. As a corporation, it doesn’t want to accept that we as farmworkers have a solution. That is what caused them to flee, to buy from farms where workers live under conditions that were happening in the U.S. a hundred years ago, but that are happening today in Mexico. That is where Wendy’s went to purchase.
We have put a lot of pressure on Wendy’s. As a result, and thanks to many people in different states and countries who have been supporting the Fair Food Program, we have succeeded in getting Wendy’s to agree to stop buying from Mexico and to return to purchasing from the United States and Canada. But this is not what we asked for. They announced that they would purchase from greenhouses, where we know that conditions for farmworkers can be equal to those on any farm outside the Fair Food Program.
What we are asking is: that Wendy’s stop abandoning human rights protections for farmworkers, that they don’t tolerate sexual harassment of women, and that we all move forward with this new day for farmworkers under the Fair Food Program. That’s what we’re also asking from you: today, you all came to support us, and we ask that when you return to your universities and schools, you bring this experience with you to your classmates. We know that while we’re here right now, many by tomorrow may forget what we did today. That’s why we’re here asking you that you keep supporting. They didn’t accept our letter— that doesn’t mean anything to us. What we want is for you all to see the position Wendy’s is taking, and that you see their rejection as a push for you all to keep supporting the expansion of the Fair Food Program.
¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede!
Students stated in full confidence, “We know its not a question of if but when Wendy’s will join the Fair Food Program, so Wendy’s, we will be back!”