PLUS: Students at New College of Florida begin five-day fast in solidarity with OSU's Boot the Braids campaign
On Thursday, the CIW put out an expertly-crafted analysis on OSU's self-destructive relationship with Wendy's, tracking the corporation’s long and disturbing record of resistance to the "best workplace-monitoring program" in the U.S. As students across the Fair Food Nation know, the fast food hold-out’s illustrious record includes intentionally shifting its tomato purchases away from Florida to farms in Mexico, where workers continue to suffer from sexual violence, discrimination, wage theft and even slavery, as well as issuing an empty supplier code of conduct with zero mechanisms to trigger real or meaningful consequences for those kinds of human rights violations.
What's worse, Wendy's has become so desperate in looking for ways to escape all the bad press they've received as a result of the ever-larger national boycott, its PR department has decided to pull a trick out of an old, raggedy bag of failed corporate public relations ploys. Their latest move? Falsely accusing the CIW of corruption, stating that "Wendy's considers the extra penny to be a fee paid to the coalition." In reality the "penny per pound" premium is paid by the buyers to the growers who then agree to pass it along to workers in the form of a bonus — a fact that every single one of Wendy's top competitors could easily verify as they're all participating in the Fair Food Program.
And now, as the CIW simply puts it, "the Ohio State University administration must decide how far it will allow its fast-food partner to drag a proud university down into the mud".
The day after CIW published the knockout post, OSU President Drake was scheduled to speak at the University’s bi-monthly Board of Trustees meeting on significant campus affairs and initiatives since their last meeting in January. And unfortunately for him, his report on the previous two months didn't go as smoothly as he'd planned.
Over two dozen OSU students, alumni, professors and Columbus community members crashed the meeting, loudly chanting "Keep your word! Cut the contract with Wendy's!" and calling out President Drake for neglecting to mention one very important issue on campus: OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance's burgeoning Boot the Braids campaign, and the University’s opportunity to be a leader among the country’s most prestigious universities in taking a stand for farmworkers’ human rights.
Henry Peller, one of the 19 brave OSU student fasters from last month's weeklong fast at OSU, disrupted the meeting, putting President Drake on blast in front of his colleagues (and the 4,000+ people who watched the action live on Facebook) for breaking his promise to students and extending the Wendy's on-campus lease :
...By cutting the contract, OSU will push Wendy's to join this program. Instead, OSU continues to be complicit in Wendy's exploitation. Two years ago, OSU added a clause to the contract stating that Wendy's must meet the concerns of the Student/Farmworker Alliance — that's us — however, the contract was extended this past November, even though our concerns have not been met. Our concerns will only be met when Wendy's signs the Fair Food Program. Will you, Board of Trustees, keep your word and cut the contract with Wendy's? Yes or no?"
Following the meeting, the group of students and their supporters gathered outside, where OSU student faster Reyna Lusson closed out the triumphant protest by delivering a powerful message for President Drake:
"We challenge you to imagine a world where the foods we eat are harvested with dignity and justice; where farmworkers can live and work without fear of sexual assault or harassment; where they earn a fair, living wage and can actually bring home the fruits of their labor to feed themselves and their families; where just one more penny per pound of tomatoes is enough to make a huge difference.
This is the world that exists for many farmworkers. The world that many have fought for and won already. This world is called the Fair Food Program. This world is possible and you have the power to help us create it."
And as President Drake decides whether or not to use the one form of real leverage within his reach — namely, whether or not OSU will be a leader nationwide as the first university to ban Wendy's from campus until the company joins the Fair Food Program — students and young people across the country are taking note and taking action.
Meanwhile, in Florida...
In the aftermath of last month’s 7-day fast by OSU students, an action that inspired the whole of the Fair Food Nation and millions more through national press coverage, SFAers in Florida have been among those who have stepped up to the plate after OSU students' call for others to take up the fast in support of their Boot the Braids campaign.
Today, the following six students at New College of Florida in Sarasota and Valencia College in Orlando begin a five-day fast in solidarity with OSU students, who the Floridians met during the Parade for Human Rights in Columbus last month:
Alex Schelle, New College of Florida, 3rd year student
Emily Anne King, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
Sarah Friend, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
Xavier Goud, Valencia College student
Ximena Pedroza, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
Yasmeen Wilson, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
New College students will bring attention to their fast with an impressive line-up of events throughout the week, including a dynamite panel on the Fair Food Program's pioneering approach to addressing social responsibility in corporate supply chains, featuring members of the CIW, the Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network and Migrant Justice . And of course, it wouldn't be a week of action without a protest! On Friday at 6 p.m., farmworkers, local religious leaders, community allies and fellow New College students will join the fasters for a Boycott Wendy's picket at the Wendy's on U.S. 41 in Sarasota.
And the national rolling fast doesn’t stop there: Up next, students at University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Eckerd College and Barry University will be continuing the next leg of the rolling student fast. There's still time to add your campus to the growing list. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin organizing your fast. And stay tuned for news on how the national SFA network can support in kicking Wendy's off OSU’s campus before the semester ends!