This past weekend, after thousands of people had amassed in the streets for the largest march for Fair Food in years, and the electrifying Concert for Fair Food was just about to rally to a close, dozens of Student/Farmworker Alliance members representing key campuses across the country took to the stage to announce a pivotal escalation of the Boot the Braids Campaign: a national student boycott of Wendy’s.
Student leaders at Ohio State University, Wendy’s hometown college, delivered the declaration, vowing that the boycott — part of the larger student-led Boot the Braids Campaign, aimed at cutting campus contracts — would snowball over the coming months at dozens of other universities, accelerating in momentum until Wendy’s commits to farmworker justice by joining the Fair Food Program.
“All of Wendy’s fast food competitors have committed to buy only from farms where farmworkers are guaranteed basic human rights, and yet Wendy’s has so far rejected that responsibility,” Amanda Ferguson, a member of the Student/Farmworker Alliance at the Ohio State University, pronounced from stage. “Now we’re declaring a nationwide student boycott and we will continue to escalate our efforts until Wendy’s joins the Fair Food Program.”
The declaration should have come as a bit of deja vu to Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick, who helmed Taco Bell throughout the four-year national boycott of the fast food corporation, the only other boycott in the Campaign for Fair Food’s 15-year history, until Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, finally signed the Fair Food Agreement in 2005.
Mr. Brolick knows all too well the power of students and young people rallying beside the CIW’s farmworker leadership. Surely he hasn’t forgotten how, at its height, students at over 300 universities and high schools actively supported the Taco Bell Boycott, and students at 25 educational institutions successfully organized to “Boot the Bell,” kicking the fast food joint off campus for its refusal to join the Fair Food Program.
Surely Mr. Brolick also remembers his public statement upon Taco Bell joining the program that “any solution must be industry-wide.” We agree, which is precisely the reason why all of Taco Bell’s top competitors in the industry now participate in the program, too. That is, all of them but Wendy’s.
Over two years into the ever-growing call for Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s has not only refused to even sit down with the CIW, but corporate executives have recently let on to customers that they have actually shifted their tomato purchases outside of Florida, to fields where abuses are permitted to persist. As students have been saying, “Wendy’s has launched a boycott of the Fair Food Program. So we’re launching a boycott of Wendy’s.”
The Parade & Concert for Fair Food couldn’t have served as a better backdrop for this dramatic campaign escalation. As the largest CIW-led march in years, the parade was a triumphant expression of commitment to farmworker justice. Spirits were at an all-time high, as thousands wove their way through the streets of St. Pete, guided by brilliantly vivid, vibrant floats and feather flags, chants ringing out at peak decibel as they passed Wendy’s and Publix, before finally arriving at the Concert for Fair Food set-up in Vinoy Park at the edge of the Tampa Bay.
And the concert did not disappoint. The afternoon and evening delivered electrifying performances from Son Solidario, the ever-growing crew of jaraneros sharing the traditional folk music from Veracruz, Mexico, that has become the soundtrack to the Campaign for Fair Food; Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics, filling the space with their soul and R&B sounds and vocals; La Santa Cecilia, whose powerful, diverse performance made an undeniably strong connection with the audience, bringing hundreds to their feet; and Ozomatli, who closed the night with one final exhilarating show that ended in and amongst the audience.
All in all, the Parade & Concert for Fair Food proved to be an unforgettable celebration of 20 years of struggle and victories in the fields, as well as a powerful notice to Wendy's and Publix that the Fair Food Nation only grows with time. You don't want to miss the CIW's full photo and video report here.
Interested in getting involved in the Boot the Braids campaign and the student-led boycott of Wendy’s? Email us to get started!
Buckle up, Brolick! We all know how this story ends...
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Sunday, March 22, 2015
PHOTOS: Students Declare Nationwide Boycott of Wendy’s as Thousands Gather at Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Concert for Fair Food
Boycott Launched over burger giant’s refusal to join internationally-renowned Fair Food Program
St. Petersburg, FL – On Saturday, March 21st, students from around the country took the stage before a crowd of thousands at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Concert for Fair Food to declare a nationwide student boycott of fast-food chain, Wendy’s. The concert, featuring Grammy-winning artists Ozomatli and La Santa Cecilia, was the latest development in a two-year campaign calling on Wendy’s to help eliminate farmworker poverty and abuse through the Fair Food Program (FFP), recently heralded on the front page of the New York Times as “the best workplace monitoring system… in the US.”
The student-led boycott will be launched at Ohio State University and will snowball over the coming months as dozens more universities adopt the boycott. The action comes as part of the larger student-led campaign, "Boot the Braids," which is aimed at ending Wendy's contractual relationships with universities around the country until the company joins the FFP.
“All of Wendy’s fast food competitors have committed to buy only from farms where farmworkers are guaranteed basic human rights, and yet Wendy’s has so far rejected that responsibility,” said Amanda Ferguson, a member of the Student/Farmworker Alliance at the Ohio State University. “Now we’re declaring a nationwide student boycott and we will continue to escalate our efforts until Wendy’s joins the Fair Food Program.”
The only other boycott in the history of the 15-year Campaign for Fair Food was declared by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) against Taco Bell in 2002. Then-president Emil Brolick witnessed Taco Bell signing the first Fair Food Agreement with CIW in 2005, declaring in a press release that “any solution must be industry-wide.” Now, as president and CEO of Wendy’s, Emil Brolick has refused even to talk with CIW, much less commit Wendy’s to the Fair Food Program.
At its height, students at over 300 universities, colleges, and high schools were actively supporting the Taco Bell Boycott. Students at 25 educational institutions successfully organized to ‘Boot the Bell,’ ending or preventing Taco Bell contracts with their schools.
“With ‘Boot the Braids’ and the Wendy's student boycott, we are reminding Emil Brolick of the power students have in the Campaign for Fair Food,” Ferguson continued. “The Concert for Fair Food was not only a celebration of the transformation taking root in the agriculture industry as a result of the Fair Food Program, but also a call to action going out to thousands of students across the country to boycott Wendy’s until they, too, are part of the solution.”
About the Fair Food Program
The Fair Food Program (FFP) is an historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and thirteen multibillion-dollar tomato retailers, including Wendy’s major competitors Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonalds, and Subway. By committing to the FFP, participating retailers require more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers, agree to purchase exclusively from those who meet these higher standards, and pay a “penny-per-pound” premium which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers.
The FFP has won widespread acclaim as a human rights model by institutions from the Clinton Global Initiative to the United Nations and heralded in a White House report as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” for combating modern-day slavery. Since 2011, participating buyers have invested more than $16 million into the Fair Food Program, supporting the first significant pay increase for workers in over 30 years.
About the Student/Farmworker Alliance
The Student/Farmworker Alliance (www.sfalliance.org) is a national network of students and young people organizing in partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to eliminate exploitative conditions and farmworker poverty in the agriculture industry.