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As rolling student fast enters second month, Vanderbilt students answer the call loud and clear!

Like Tampa area fast, Vanderbilt action snowballs, doubles within days of launch and catches the attention of University administration, local media…

Following yesterday’s exciting news of the series of 3-day fasts rolling through university campuses in the Tampa Bay region — and of the critical call to action from students at OSU — we have yet another inspiring update today, this time from the parallel student action taking place in Nashville at Vanderbilt University!  

But first… A call to action to support OSU student leaders!

Quickly, before we jump into the action in Tennessee, we want to remind everyone that makes up the vast Fair Food Nation of the critical call to action from Ohio State University students:

OSU student fasters during the March 26th Parade for Human Rights in Columbus, Ohio

This weekend, students are calling on the whole of the Fair Food Nation — people of faith across all denominations, community and worker leaders, and of course, their fellow students on campuses from Maine to California — to record a short video message for OSU’s President Michael Drake.  OSU students are asking you (yes, you) to join them in urging President Drake to honor the University’s contractual commitment to satisfying the students’ concerns about the fast food giant’s supply chain practices (satisfaction that will only come when Wendy’s signs a Fair Food Agreement) before renewing Wendy’s lease to do business on campus.  

Check out yesterday’s post for more details, and make sure to send your video by this Sunday, April 23rd!

Now, on to Nashville… 

This past Tuesday, inspired by their peers at Ohio State, U of Michigan, New College and Valencia College, four students at Vanderbilt, joined by a student from nearby Trevecca Nazarene University for a total of five, launched a seven-day fast to build the pressure on Vanderbilt to cut the prestigious university’s own contract with Wendy’s.  

Fasting Vanderbilt students setting up camp and flyering as students pass by at the heart of campus

By Day 2 of the the fast, however, the number of student fasters began to climb.  As more of the fasters’ peers learned of the Wendy’s Boycott — and their university’s own connection with Wendy’s — another student joined the remainder of the full fast, four more students committed to daylight fasts for the remainder of the week, and even more committed to a one-day solidarity fast!

Following a letter to the administration last week informing them of the students’ intention to fast for seven days, administrators quickly reached out for a meeting to discuss the situation.  On Tuesday, students sat down with dining service administrators and, just as they had in previous meetings with the university administration, presented those at the table with the rationale behind their action.  They presented evidence of the horrific abuses faced by workers in Mexico’s produce industry — conditions that include “workers forced to work without pay, trapped for months at a time in scorpion-infested camps, often without beds, fed on scraps, and beaten when they tried to quit” — where Wendy’s shifted its purchases after Florida growers implemented the Fair Food Program in partnership with the CIW.  And they presented the ample evidence in support of the Fair Food Program itself, informing the dining service representatives that the FFP is a Presidential Medal-winning Program that the United Nations expert on human trafficking declared “must be considered an international benchmark” for slavery prevention.  

Their presentation left the administrators with a simple choice: Leverage the historic university’s name and reputation to support the Fair Food Program, the undisputed gold standard in human rights protection, or sully that same name and reputation by stubbornly coupling it to Wendy’s, the only major fast-food company still refusing to join the FFP, and the only one to abandon Florida growers for Mexican agribusiness where human rights violations are endemic and go effectively unchecked.

And yet, once again, administrators were unmoved, refusing to commit to ending Vanderbilt’s relationship with the Wendy’s corporation.  Following the meeting, students reaffirmed their own commitment not only to continue fasting for the remainder of the seven days, but to escalating the Boot the Braids Campaign on Vanderbilt’s campus until the contract was cut.

Meanwhile, news of a swiftly-growing fast on Vanderbilt’s campus caught the attention of the local media.  First up, the Vanderbilt Political Review, the campus’s nonpartisan political newspaper, picked up on the progress of the fast, publishing the article entitled “Vanderbilt Students Launch Week-Long Fast in Protest of Wendy’s” just yesterday:

Vanderbilt Students Launch Week-Long Fast in Protest of Wendy’s

April 20, 2017
by Christopher St. Clair

A group of Vanderbilt students are fasting this week as part of a nation-wide protest against fast food chain Wendy’s over alleged worker’s rights violations.

The students, totaling twelve in all, started fasting on April 18th and plan to continue fasting until April 25th. The fast will culminate in a student and community march on Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos’ office on the afternoon of the 25th. [… ]

[…] In addition to declining participation in the program, Wendy’s shifted its tomato suppliers from Florida to Mexico, where farms have more than once come under scrutiny for human rights violations including wage theft, sexual harassment, and slavery.

Wendy’s responded to CIW’s and other’s criticisms last month by revamping and expanding its Supplier Code of Conduct. The agreement now lays out in detail the company’s expectations for suppliers’ commitments to food safety, animal welfare, and human and labor rights.

CIW, however, criticized the move as “hollow” and “[containing” no effective mechanisms for worker participation or enforcement.” A statement on their website reads, “Wendy’s new code represents the very worst of the traditional corporate approach to social responsibility driven by public relations rather than human rights.”

The protestors at Vanderbilt are hoping that their fast finally gets the attention of the university. “Chancellor Zeppos has an important ethical choice to make concerning Vanderbilt’s contract with Wendy’s,” said Ania Szczesniewski, a third-year student and one of the fast participants.

“We’re going without food for seven days to send the message that it is unacceptable for the university to keep doing business with a corporation that willingly chooses to support violence, sexual harassment, wage theft, and dangerous working conditions in their supply chain.”

The Vanderbilt fasters are joined by students from other universities around the country as part of the “Boot the Braids” campaign to end university contracts with Wendy’s. Students at Ohio State University partook in their own fast last month, and since then a litany of colleges have glommed onto the movement. The list includes the University of Michigan, New College of Florida, Valencia College, University of South Florida, University of Tampa, and Eckerd College.

The protestors are expecting several more schools to join through the month of May.

On Wednesday, local news channel Fox 7 spread the word about the action, highlighting the principal decision-maker on VU’s campus, Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, as well as the critical moral decision that his own students have brought before him:

Vanderbilt students fast for 7 days in effort to boot Wendy’s off university dining plan

Wednesday, April 19th 2017
by Kaylin Searles

Vanderbilt University students are launching a 7-day fast in support of a national boycott of Wendy’s.

The students are also using this to launch their campaign to boot Wendy’s off the university’s dining program. The fast is being held from April 18 to the 25.

Advocates started boycotting Wendy’s about a year ago, demanding the fast food giant join the Fair Food Program to protect farmworkers’ rights.

A major Wendy’s Boycott student and community march to Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos’ office on April 25… read more

As we did yesterday with the growing list of student activists in the Tampa Bay region, we want to highlight the courageous young people fasting this week at Vanderbilt:

  • Tristan Abbott, senior, biology, Vanderbilt University
  • Ania Szczesniewski, third year, anthropology, Vanderbilt University 
  • Joshua Palmer, senior, physics, computer science and math, Vanderbilt University
  • Cal Filkin, third year, biology, Vanderbilt University
  • Rita McLaughlin, freshman, education, Vanderbilt University
  • Shawn Reilly, hod, senior,Vanderbilt University
  • Hamzah Raza, third year, religious studies,Vanderbilt University
  • Alan Luna, Trevecca Nazarene University 
  • Robby Marshall, third year, computer science, Vanderbilt University
  • Jamario Cantrell, freshman, sociology, Vanderbilt University (5-Day fast)

And that’s a wrap for today’s truly inspiring news from students in Nashville.  As the rolling fast continues (with more schools already lined up to carry the torch in the coming days), be sure to check back soon for even more news from the Boot the Braids front lines, and don’t forget to send in your own video to OSU’s President Drake in the days ahead!

Boot the Braids campaigns surge in Columbus, Tampa Bay!

Number of fasting students doubles overnight in Tampa, as news of Wendy’s unconscionable failure to respect Florida farmworkers’ human rights spreads across campuses!…Plus, CALL TO ACTION: Ohio State students call for Fair Food Nation to send videos to OSU administration before Sunday…The rising tide of student action following last month’s Return to Human Rights Tour hit yet another high water mark this week, with major developments in the national Boot the Braids Campaign taking shape on campuses in both Columbus, Ohio, and the Tampa Bay area here in Florida (with still much more to come from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, too!). Early this week, […]

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PHOTO REPORT: Nationwide student fast keeps rolling!

New College, Valencia College students break five-day fast, vow to continue the Campaign:  “This University will continue to fight for the rights of farmworkers, and for all human rights”…Students at Vanderbilt, University of Tampa, Eckerd College and University of South Florida take up the torch as national rolling student fast for farmworker justice continues!After five long days of fasting — an act that inspired more than 80 of their fellow New College students, as well as college President Donal O’Shea, to fast alongside them — five students from New College of Florida and Valencia College broke bread with farmworkers from Immokalee on Good Friday following a picket […]

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New College students launch 5-day fast, win support of college President Donal O’Shea and scores of Florida students pledging to Boycott Wendy’s!

The local Sarasota SNN TV station breaks the news of New College students fasting in support of the Wendy’s Boycott.Nationwide rolling fast for farmworker justice hits Florida…Students at New College in Sarasota declare: “I’m fasting to stand in solidarity with Ohio State students as they fight with their administration to get Wendy’s off their campus, and in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and all of the work that they have been doing for over 20 years to get farmworkers the basic human rights that they deserve…”This week, students at New College of Florida and Valencia College launched a five-day fast […]

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“Keep your word! Cut the contract with Wendy’s!” OSU students take demands to Board of Trustees meeting!

PLUS: Students at New College of Florida begin five-day fast in solidarity with OSU’s Boot the Braids campaign!Last month, farmworkers from Immokalee and hundreds of allies converged on Columbus, Ohio, for a major mobilization and parade at the peak of the Return to Human Rights Tour, just as 19 students and alumni of OSU broke a 7-day fast for farmworker justice:But although the fast ended that day, students at OSU — and across the country — were in fact just getting started.  Just a day after last week’s reflection on this website on the relationship between Ohio State University and the Wendy’s Corporation, OSU’s President Michael Drake […]

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OSU and Wendy’s: Taking stock of a troubled relationship…

Or if you prefer your proverbs biblical, “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians, 15:33)After Wendy’s latest public relations play, OSU administration must decide how far it will allow its fast-food partner to drag a proud university down into the mud…Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac is generally credited with popularizing the colorful aphorism, “He that lieth down with the dogs shall rise up with fleas.”  It is an age old proverb that is widely understood to mean that one should choose carefully the company one keeps, lest the sins of your associates become your own in the eyes of the public.And in the wake of the most recent […]

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Hot off the press! The full media round-up from the Return to Human Rights Tour is here…

Ohio State student fasters: “With this fast, we wanted to send the signal loud and clear [to Wendy’s] that as consumers, we care about where our food comes from…”Hitting 14 cities in 14 days, and featuring a week-long fast by 19 courageous students and alumni at Ohio State University, the Return to Human Rights Tour undoubtedly established the high-water mark in the year-old Wendy’s Boycott.  For one frenetic fortnight in March, thousands of consumers in state after state — from student fasters and local labor leaders to determined clergy and consumers of conscience of every stripe — joined forces with the tour crew and amplified the CIW’s message to Wendy’s: […]

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A Tampa Twofer! Return to Human Rights Tour wraps up with a huge march, rally at Tampa Wendy’s, Publix…

Nearly 300 exuberant Fair Food supporters turn out to welcome the Return to Human Rights Tour back to Florida with a rocking rally and march through Tampa!Now that is what we call a warm, down-home welcome:More than two weeks after embarking on an odyssey that would ultimately cover 14 states and over 2,000 miles, the Return to Human Rights Tour crew was given a heroes’ welcome by nearly 300 of their closest friends in Tampa on Wednesday, including a massive march (above) from a Publix store to a Wendy’s restaurant, a joyous rally looking to a future of an ever more […]

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“It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall…”

The Photo Report from Sunday’s Parade for Human Rights in Columbus, Ohio, is here, and from the looks of things, a hard rain is coming for those who would stand in the way of farmworkers’ fundamental rights!In what would become an unforgettable march celebrating the end of the week-long fast by students and alumni at The Ohio State University — and the start of a rolling fast of students across the Fair Food Nation in support of the Wendy’s Boycott — nearly 500 farmworkers and their consumer allies braved cold winds and a soaking rainstorm to march three miles through […]

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It’s still a pig…

Wendy’s latest public relations ploy in response to Campaign for Fair Food isn’t fooling anyone…Sometimes, you just have to hand it to Wikipedia.  It can be a wonderful resource, with clear, concise definitions of just about every concept under the sun.  Here’s a good example, brought to mind by the very latest news out of Wendy’s public relations department:Lipstick on a pig – Wikipedia To put “lipstick on a pig” is a rhetorical expression, used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product.The latest “news” from Wendy’s PR shop… Earlier this […]

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MUST-SEE Super Bowl Adbust: Farmworkers expertly take down Wendy’s $5 million “Cold as Ice” commercial!

Facebook, Twitter blow up with Fair Food version of Wendy’s big Super Bowl ad buy! $5 million for 30 seconds of Super Bowl airtime could fund more than 5 years of fairer wages and humane working conditions for workers picking Wendy’s tomatoes through the Fair Food Program… In the event that you were watching the Super Bowl yesterday, you may have caught Wendy’s 30 second ad that aired shortly before halftime.  The ad emphasized two aspects of Wendy’s concerted strategy to re-invent its public image: an emphasis on “quality” ingredients and a cheeky Twitter game.  In case you didn’t catch it the first time, […]

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A Tale of Two Roadside Farm Stands…

Or why Wendy’s is not like you.And why you should join us for the Return to Human Rights Tour this March 16-29!Join us, if you will, in a brief thought experiment: What would you do if you were in the market for some fresh tomatoes and you happened upon a roadside farm stand — an idyllic, pastoral produce stand, its shelves piled high with fruits and vegetables picked fresh in fields right next door — selling red, ripe tomatoes at a great price?You’d stop in a heartbeat, right?  Who doesn’t love farm fresh produce?But what if, while you’re standing at the cash […]

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European governments take note of Fair Food Program’s power to resolve longstanding human rights conflicts…

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) publishes brief on Fair Food Program in quarterly magazine…In an effort to provide a forum for economic cooperation and reduce tensions during the height of the Cold War, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was formed in 1975 in Helsinki, Finland.  Since then, it has expanded to include 57 member states — including the US — from Europe, Central Asia, and North America.  Today the OSCE has grown to become “the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization” with a mandate that includes “issues such as arms control and the promotion of human rights, freedom of the […]

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UN expert: FFP “must be considered an international benchmark” in fight against modern-day slavery!

United Nations Human Trafficking expert lifts up CIW’s Fair Food Program following fact-finding tour of US anti-slavery efforts…Nothing like starting off the new year on a positive note!In her official End of Visit Statement issued late last month, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, made special mention of the CIW’s Fair Food Program for its exemplary results in the prevention of modern-day slavery.  Here is an excerpt from her statement, issued through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:Washington DC, 19 December 2016 – I am grateful to the Government of the United States of America […]

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The arc of the moral universe is still ours to bend…

As fundamental human rights take the national stage following Tuesday’s electoral results, the battle for farm labor rights continues…Rio Grande Valley, Austin, San Marcos, San Antonio take the call for farm labor justice to Wendy’s doorstep!Before we begin today’s update, a word on current events:“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”We have had occasion to quote those words, attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, many a time over the 25 years that we have been organizing here in Immokalee.  The quotation reminds us that, though at times it might seem that progress has grown unbearably slow […]

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Fair Food Program receives highest recommendation in newly released evaluation of seven food justice certification programs!

Fair World Project — a project of the Organic Consumers Association, the nation’s largest network of green and ethical consumers — releases powerful new report looking into the standards, enforcement, and impact of best-known certification programs…The CIW’s Fair Food Program received the highest recommendation in a new study of seven of the leading certification programs in the country carried out by Fair World Project, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.  The report “strongly recommends” the Fair Food Program, along with the Agricultural Justice Project, “for their strength in key areas as well as for their involvement of workers in all levels of the […]

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