“Boot the Braids!” rings out across campuses throughout the Midwest and Southeast!

What do major universities in Columbus, Ann Arbor, Louisville and Gainesville have in common?  Apart from raging school spirit, these campuses share a few important things.  First, they all do business with Wendy’s, allowing the fast food chain to blithely profit from students on campus with its unfair food; and second, the students on campus are not going to take it!  The Boot the Braids Campaign is picking up steam for the 2016-2017 school year:

In Columbus, the ‘Behind the Braids’ tour visit came at a critical juncture:  Almost two years ago, the university administration committed to end its contract with Wendy’s if the Dublin, Ohio-based fast-food chain did not join the CIW’s proven solution to end the abuse of farmworkers in its supply chain and thus resolve the grave concerns of the OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance.  With the deadline to renew the lease for the Wendy’s at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center fast approaching, the administration has yet to act.  

On October 7, dozens of students and community members from OSU SFA, Ohio Fair Food, the Methodist Theological Seminary of Ohio, the Central Ohio Workers’ Center, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, and many other groups marched to the administration building to knock on President Michael Drake’s door.  The bright and colorful march proceeded through the center of campus, turning the heads of hundreds of students. 

As it neared Bricker Hall, the cry began to ring out: “Drake, keep your promises!  Drake, keep your promises!”  Although President Drake was traveling, there is little doubt that he, and hundreds more in the Columbus community, heard the growing call to end OSU’s complicity in Wendy’s unjust supply chain practices:  the action on campus was covered by WOSU and the Columbus Free Press; OSU’s Student/Farmworker Alliance sent in a scathing Letter to the Editor to OSU’s student newspaper, The Lantern; and hundreds around the country emailed President Drake directly to express their support for the OSU students’ campaign.

In the face of Wendy’s — and the University’s — broken-record explanation for why Wendy’s need not join the Program, CIW’s Oscar Otzoy drove the message home for President Drake in the Columbus Free Press article:  “Wendy’s is quick to offer their Supplier Code of Conduct, released last year, as their substitute for the Fair Food Program — and their reason for not joining… But without any effective measures for enforcement or worker participation, Wendy’s code does not even begin to measure up to a commitment to the Fair Food Program.”

By the end of the tour stop, the message from students for the President was unmistakable: “The time for stalling is past — the human rights of farmworkers will not wait.  We must “Boot the Braids,” University President Michael Drake, as you promised!”  

With the movement to “Boot the Braids” at OSU on the rise, the tour also headed to neighboring Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Wendy’s holds a major contract with the University of Michigan.  

Upon arrival, we buckled down for a busy schedule of presentations, workshops, and strategy sessions, aiming to build a powerful “Boot the Braids” coalition both on campus and in the community:  We started off with a popular education theater piece with the Ann Arbor Solidarity with Farmworkers Collective and the Michigan Solidarity Network with Mexico — and that was just the beginning.  After many more strategy meetings and lively presentations, we found that everywhere from the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor to classrooms at UMich and Eastern Michigan University to local businesses in nearby Ypsilanti, Michiganders are committed to joining and spreading the Wendy’s Boycott.  

The visit culminated with an on-campus action in which Fair Food supporters educated over 500 passersby about the Wendy’s Boycott and the campaign to “Boot the Braids” at UMich, ending with a delegation to the manager of the Union Wendy’s!

Upon arrival to the Derby City, we were welcomed on campus by the University of Louisville’s  Cardinal Student/Farmworker Alliance, the student-led organization that has been turning up the volume on the Wendy’s Boycott on campus since its launch in March.  Off to a strong start with this past spring’s Workers’ Voice Tour, Cardinal SFA hosted a Wendy’s Boycott teach-in, strengthening their base on campus to further escalate the campaign in the months ahead.

And after a busy day of back-to-back classroom presentations, the Immokalee tour crew gathered with allies outside of the Student Activity Center, home to the Wendy’s on campus.  

As the lunch rush hour ensued, the Fair Food crew fanned out to flyer and educate students about the Wendy’s Boycott and the injustices tied directly to their campus community — deterring many from eating lunch at Wendy’s that day (and every day after), and inspiring others to even take some flyers to give to friends and family!

During our final stop along the “Behind the Braids” Southeast Tour, we were met with a wave of support in the sunny and scenic city of Gainesville by both longtime veterans in the fight for Fair Food, such as the indefatigable members of the Gainesville’s Alliance for Immigrant Justice, and brand-new supporters just learning of the growing national Wendy’s Boycott. 

We spent the bulk of our visit organizing in and around the University of Florida: sharing the long history of student involvement in the Campaign for Fair Food at UF, from the Taco Bell Boycott to the Dine with Dignity Campaign, with dozens of students over a delicious meal at La Casita; strategizing the next big moves in the “Boot the Braids” campaign with members of CHISPAS UF and Gators Against Human Trafficking; and educating hundreds of students in classrooms across campus about Wendy’s decision to turn its back on protecting the human rights of farmworkers in its supply chain. 

Our time at the University of Florida ended on a high note, with both a letter delegation to UF administrators and a community-wide protest, where we were joined by a freshly-energized group of UF students, faith leaders and community members for a Boycott Wendy’s picket on the side of one of Gainesville’s most trafficked streets — a perfect way to end the tour, with allies in the community full of excitement to keep building the pressure in the Wendy’s campaign in the months ahead! 

The call to “Boot the Braids” rang out across campuses around the country this past week, a call that was heard by thousands of students, dozens of university administrators, and without a doubt, Wendy’s.  It is high time for Wendy’s to face the reality that student organizing will only continue to ramp up this school year and universities will have no choice but to hear their students’ just demands and end their contracts with Wendy’s.  Wendy’s has already lost the business of thousands of young people and students across the country, and that number is only growing.

Get with the Program, Wendy’s!