Ohio State, UNC - Chapel Hill, University of Michigan, University of Florida students fight to remove Wendy’s from their campuses until the company respects farmworkers’ rights;
Students to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt: "The bottom line is that doing business with Wendy’s — and promoting its brand on campus — associates UNC with a company that has chosen to turn its back on the world’s leading program to end human rights abuses in agriculture."
Last week, we shared the first roundup of creative actions that took place in over a dozen cities as part of the “Pulling Back the Curtain on Wendy’s” National Week of Action – including at Boot the Braids campus, University of Florida – capturing the SFA network’s thunderous call for transparency and verifiable protections for farmworkers in the company’s supply chain. In this second installment, we’re highlighting the creative and tireless efforts of SFA leaders at The Ohio State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan organizing to break their school’s resistance to cut ties with Wendy’s.
At each campus, the students’ rallying cry rang loud and clear: We’re fed up with university leaders sidestepping our concerns over Wendy’s egregious human rights record while cozying up with the fast-food chain behind closed doors!
Here are the first-hand reports from the front lines of the swiftly growing national “Boot the Braids” campaign:
Lights, camera, Boycott Wendy’s! Support grows at UNC to remove Wendy’s from campus…
After an energizing weekend at the SFA Encuentro in Immokalee this past September, we’ve been going hard at UNC-Chapel Hill to build our chapter of the Student/Farmworker Alliance and rally support to remove Wendy’s from campus until it commits to the Fair Food Program. After weeks of planning, we had the honor of welcoming Lupe Gonzalo of the CIW to campus on Oct. 15 for a two-week speaking tour in over a dozen classrooms, culminating with a march to Wendy’s.
After a jam-packed week of meetings and presentations to educate the Tar Heel community on the movement for Fair Food – including gathering over 500 petition signatures to kick Wendy’s off campus and handing out over 1,000 flyers for our Oct. 25 protest – it was time to take action!
Inspired by the National Week of Action’s theme, we decided to “pull back the curtain” on UNC Chancellor Carol Folt’s own complicity in farmworker exploitation — quite literally — by staging a surprise theater performance. The skit, which generated many boos and laughs throughout, exposed UNC’s chummy relationship with Wendy’s and the corporation’s desperate attempts to hide from its responsibility to protect farmworkers’ human rights.
And with spirits running high, the crowd of students, faculty and allies from the Triangle Area — including members of Student Action with Farmworkers, Durham Fight for $15, the Poor People’s Campaign and Mi Gente at Duke University — took off!
Over 60 people marched and chanted through the heart of campus with colorful signs and banners, weaving through the swarm of students changing classes and enjoying an outdoor lunch given the perfect fall weather. The action took a pause in front of the Carolina Dining Services offices at The Pit, a popular gathering place for students, as UNC Campus Y Co-president Alli Whitenack issued a statement in solidarity with the Boot the Braids campaign, backed by leaders of over 30 student organizations:
“As consumers and shareholders of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we demand that the contract with Wendy’s be ended immediately and Wendy’s brand be prohibited from existing on our campus. We have learned in movements and moments throughout history that to ignore the maltreatment and abuse of other human beings is to be complicit in that violence. Wendy’s has clearly demonstrated its complicity in the sexual harassment, child labor and modern slavery of farmworkers across the country and outside of the U.S…. it cannot be denied that UNC profits from a corporation that is comfortable with the exploitation of other human beings. Unethical corporations such as Wendy’s have no place on a university campus that claims to be ‘For All.’”
Riled up and ready to make our voices heard, we made our way to the Wendy’s at the Graham Student Union for a lunchtime picket!
News of the Wendy’s Boycott protest quickly circulated the campus and was even picked up by the independent student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel:
By Cole Villena
Students, community members and farmworkers marched from the South Building to the Wendy’s in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union Thursday, demanding that campus officials cut ties with the restaurant due to its refusal to adopt the pro-workers’ rights Fair Food Program.
The afternoon's event began around noon with a brief theatrical performance and ended 45 minutes later with chanting, marching and picketing just outside of Wendy’s.
The demonstration was organized by the UNC Student/Farmworker Alliance, which has called for the chain to sign onto the Fair Food Program since March of last year. Chapter leader Marco Chumbimuni performed in the initial skit. On the steps of South Building, the location of Chancellor Carol Folt’s office, he criticized another actor portraying the chancellor for allowing the chain to maintain its presence on campus. […]
[…] In a statement to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC Director of Auxiliary Services Scott Myers cited specific protections for tomato growers, which have been a central focus of the Fair Food Program’s efforts.
“In 2017, following student concerns, the University worked with Wendy’s to ensure all of their tomatoes for UNC-Chapel Hill would be purchased through the Aramark supply chain, thereby ensuring that the tomatoes used at the Wendy’s on campus will be subject to the provisions of Aramark’s agreement with the CIW,” Myers said in the statement. “UNC-Chapel Hill will continue to both listen to student concerns when it comes to dining options, as well as work closely with Aramark to ensure sustainably sourced products are available for students.”
In an email, [UNC SFA leader Mia] Shang called the University's response "half-hearted."
"Even if we were able to verify that the tomatoes on campus are sourced through the FFP, Wendy’s as a corporation remains stubbornly opposed to protecting the rights of farmworkers in its supply chain and continues to profit from the business of our students," she said. "The bottom line is that doing business with Wendy’s — and promoting its brand on campus — associates UNC with a company that has chosen to turn its back on the world’s leading program to end human rights abuses in agriculture."
Chumbimuni agreed, saying students would accept "nothing less than the Fair Food Program."
"There is no halfway when it comes to doing the right thing," Chumbimuni said.
No one covers for Wendy’s like Ohio State…
Meanwhile, up in the Buckeye State, OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance built upon their long-standing Boot the Braids campaign with Wendy’s (which has been going since before the launch of the national boycott!), hitting the ground running for the fall semester!
We had a busy week, building coalitions with other groups to host our first-ever DISorientation – a teach-in meant to shed light on the many troubling realities underlying OSU as an institution, from using prison labor, to million dollar fossil fuel investments and shutting down its only resources to survivors of sexual violence on campus – and, of course, maintaining its contract with Wendy’s.
Building on the week’s early educational events, we held a lively rally outside of President Drake’s office, followed by delivering a letter signed by many student organizations on campus. This letter, written personally by OSU students for President Michael V. Drake, demanded a real commitment to institutional ethical practices – and top of the list was for the university to cut its contract with Wendy’s:
“OSU, much like its corporate partners, actively silences students and workers that call out injustice. OSU is silencing us much like Wendy’s silences farmworkers. However, just like the farmworkers, we have the power and strength to come together, organize as a community, and demand that you, President Drake, do what’s right.”
In a desperate move, OSU administrators released a statement to the school newspaper, defending their decision to continue doing business with the only fast food company that still refuses to support farmworkers’ human rights:
“Ohio State engaged with Wendy’s actively for two years and, in early 2017, Wendy’s began implementing an improved supplier Code of Conduct,” Johnson said. “Ohio State has evaluated Wendy’s code and its audit methodologies for ensuring ongoing compliance by its suppliers. We are satisfied that Wendy’s code and its auditing practices meet or exceed industry standards and are consistent with university values and expectations.”
But we are not having it. Young people on OSU’s campus unequivocally rejected OSU’s blind acceptance of Wendy’s paper-thin code of conduct (which farmworkers and experts alike, including one of OSU’s own former law professors, have long since exposed as misleading and ineffective).
Students to U of Michigan President Schlissel: Do not welcome Wendy’s back to campus…
Following our animated protest during the final home football game at the University of Michigan, the UMich community used that momentum to organize a teach-in, and a letter delegation to President Mark Schlissel.
As the campaign stands, the University of Michigan has a unique opportunity in its Boot the Braids trajectory: The Student Union, where Wendy’s used to be located, is currently under construction. Building on the clear recommendations of the University’s own commissioned study on ethical procurement practices, and years of tireless student organizing on campus, we, students and members of Washtenaw Solidarity with Farmworkers, are calling for a commitment from President Schlissel to ensure that he will not allow Wendy’s back on campus until the fast food giant joins the Fair Food Program.