“Nobody cares!” a young man shouted from a balcony in the The View luxury apartments above the new Wendy’s restaurant on the Ohio State campus yesterday morning. “Go home!” he said, his words slightly slurred. “Nobody cares about farm workers!”
Undeterred, members of the Student/Farmworker Alliance and community supporters crossed High Street and stood outside the Wendy’s entrance to protest the store’s grand opening.
The outburst from the young man who lives in luxury student housing expressed the unexamined privilege that lies at the heart of Wendy’s refusal to support human rights for farm workers by joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program.
“All of Wendy’s fast food competitors have committed to buy only from farms where workers 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.”
On March 21 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 the nationwide student boycott of 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 farm worker poverty and abuse by signing on to the Fair Food Program, recently heralded in the New York Times as “the best workplace monitoring system…in the U.S.”
The only other boycott in the history of the 15-year Campaign for Fair Food was declared by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers against Taco Bell in 2002. Then-president Emil Brolick witnessed Taco Bell signing the first Fair Food Agreement with the CIW in 2005, declaring in a press release that “any solution must be industry-wide.” Now, as president and CEO of Wendy’s, 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 said. “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.”