From the months of September and October the United Methodist Women joined the National Farm Worker Ministry and the CIW to call on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program. Throughout the past months, they collected signed postcards to petition that Wendy’s join the program.
Leaders began the day by convening at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, a congregation that has been longtime supporters of the CIW. United Methodist Women leaders from Florida, Ohio, New York and other local Ohio faith leaders connected with Lupe Gonzalo from the CIW and had the opportunity to learn and ask questions about the expansion of the Fair Food Program and the latest updates in the Wendy’s campaign, including Wendy’s move to purchase from greenhouses in the US and Canada. In addition, the United Methodist Women delegation shared information about their Living Wage for All campaign, an action initiative aimed at ending economic inequality, and how that drives their work with CIW for a living wage and dignity for farmworkers. Students from OSU also joined the group for breakfast to talk more about the history of the Wendy’s campaign on campus and what they see as next steps moving forward.
To kick-off this eventful day, the powerful group led a public prayer outside the Ohio State University while the Board of Trustees, President Drake included, were meeting to discuss OSU academic and student affairs. Students at OSU have been demanding a dialogue with President Drake for over four years to no avail. In order to make sure our presence was felt and our demands heard, students and allies went inside the trustee’s meeting, passing out flyers and postcards.
Later in the afternoon, the group drove to Wendy’s corporate headquarters in nearby Dublin for a lively picket and public witness to symbolically deliver the message of the 5,000 postcards sent by United Methodist Women across the country. The delegation was made up of strong women leaders from all over the country and included: Jeanne Long, President of United Methodist Women in the West Ohio Conference; Kathy Kuhn, President of United Methodist Women of the East Ohio Conference; Judith McRae, President of United Methodist Women of the New York Conference; Rosemary Uebel, United Methodist Women member of the Florida Conference; Carol Barton, Executive for Community Action, United Methodist Women National; a Representative of Church & Society of the East Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church representing Bishop Tracy Malone; Sister Karen Bernhardt, Congregation of the Humility of Mary and National Farm Worker Ministry board member; Katherine Dickson, Director of Vocational Discernment &; Community Engagement Methodist Theological School in Ohio; Kris LoFrumento, Director of Student Services, Methodist Theological School in Ohio; and Lupe Gonzalo from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Although the leaders of faith wanted to deliver a letter to Wendy’s, the fast food giant did not allow them inside. In their letter, the United Methodist Women wrote “Through partnership, we work to support the rights of those who pick our food. This summer, thousands of United Methodist Women members participated in a mission study on Faith and Money. In that context, we explored how our faith calls us to advocate for a living wage for all and for dignified working conditions. Our faith commitment compels us to seek decent work and abundant life for all of God’s children.” Despite the snow and freezing rain, the group picketed outside of the headquarters chanting, singing, and together in prayer, calling on Wendy’s to sign the Fair Food Program and protect farmworker human rights. While holding this rally, members of the delegation shared words of solidarity Carol Barton, United Methodist Women Executive for Community Action Economic Inequality Priority, shared the following words:
“We want dignity for workers in the fields, we want freedom from sexual violence, we want a raise in wages for workers, and so today 5,000 postcards are arriving at the CEO’s office from United Methodist Women.”
Since Wendy’s did not allow us to deliver the letter and given that at this same moment they were receiving over 5,000 postcards in the mail we ceremounisly signed a magnified version of the postcard. After everyone signed their name, Lupe Gonzalo from the CIW shared her final words of the evening. “All of us who are here, are looking for change. We will achieve this change by uniting, the change will be achieved shoulder to shoulder, not I as a farmworker not all of you as faith leaders, but together in this struggle for a better world.” She continued to share our persistance in being outside in the freezing rain and how farmworkers too face harsh working conditions. She closed the day by speaking to how we will unfreeze Wendy’s stonecold heart.
“We will unfreeze it because we can. Because we are strong women and we as women will always look for what is best for everyone. Not just for what is best for us, but for women that still face sexual assault. One day, they too will have these protections and we will feel proud have created this change.”