Midwest Tour builds pressure in Wendy’s
stomping grounds…

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CIW’s travels through the Midwest signal growing impatience of consumers with Wendy’s refusal to join widely lauded Fair Food Program — and foreshadow powerful fall campaign!

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Students and other friends of the CIW at Denison University rally in support of justice for farmworkers during the Wendy’s Midwest Tour

As the leaves change color and the air cools off, everyone — even those of us in just-a-bit-less-balmy Southwest Florida — can taste fall in the air.  And so far, October has ushered in not only cooler temperatures, but new energy and animo in the Fair Food Nation — especially for the Wendy’s campaign!  

After 9 months of petitions (including Walk Free’s latest online petition, still ongoing!), countless delegations, a memorable visit to Wendy’s annual shareholder meeting, and hundreds upon hundreds of consumers in the streets calling on Wendy’s to do the right thing, farmworkers — and our growing legions of supporters — have had enough.  The Wendy’s Midwest Tour tapped into that frustration and began the process of forging it into a powerful and sustained action campaign that will continue to unfold on campuses and in communities across the country in the months ahead.

The high note of the Midwest Tour had to be the fresh energy from the conscious, committed students and young people in and around Columbus, Ohio.  The Tour’s second week began in the small town of Granville  — 20 minutes from Wendy’s headquarters — at Denison University.  After meeting face-to-face with dozens of students through classroom presentations, the visit culminated in the “Big Red Festival,” where many more students learned about Fair Food from CIW’s Gerardo Reyes Chavez (pictured here below)…

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… and even from the University’s new president, Adam Weinberg, who strongly endorsed the students’ solidarity with Florida tomato pickers from the Big Red Festival stage.

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The Fair Food Campaign swept through the Denison University campus like a wildfire.  As is evident from the photo at the top of this post, the relationship with Denison students promises to be a deep and abiding one.

The next stop was Columbus itself, the heart of Wendy’s territory.  In addition to being welcomed by our long-time allies in Ohio Fair Food and leading presentations with labor organizations, food justice groups and faith allies, we broke new ground at Ohio State University, where students rallied in support of justice for farmworkers.  They promised to start their own Student/Farmworker Alliance chapter, and pledged the full force of students and young people in Ohio to bringing Wendy’s to the table.

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That new relationship was put to the test right away when, in spite of a driving rain and an OSU football game, students came out to a protest by the dozens to call for Fair Food alongside leaders from Ohio Fair Food at a downtown Wendy’s…

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… and even those on their way to the game made sure to stop and hear about the exciting changes for farmworkers in the fields of Florida, and to learn about Wendy’s unconscionable decision to turn its back on those changes, refusing to do its part to support the greatest leap in human rights for farmworkers in decades.

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Don’t miss the Examiner’s excellent article about the protest, “Ohio Fair Food calls on Wendy’s to support farmworker rights” (10/23/2013):

8d5305b8ee634917e2d1ad7268a78d9fThis past Saturday, over 50 Ohioans braved the cold and rain on game day to rally outside of the Wendy’s just south of the Ohio State campus. Ohio Fair Food, a group consisting of students, farmworkers, people of faith, and organized labor showed up demanding one thing: that Ohio-based Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program, which ensures a humane work environment and increased pay for Florida tomato pickers.

Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the Fair Food Program. The reasons for Wendy’s to sign on are clear; the program provides a modest increase of 1 penny more per pound of tomatoes picked, a code of conduct which ensures basic rights such as water and shade for farmworkers, and gives farmworkers a voice on the job including the right to file grievances without fear of retaliation.

Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick was the President of Taco Bell in 2005 when the chain became the first corporation to join the Fair Food Program. Brolick stated, “We are willing to play a leadership role within our industry to be part of the solution. We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.” Eight years later, Wendy’s under Brolick’s leadership has refused to sign onto the FFP.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been organizing tomato pickers in the fields of Immokalee, FL for two decades. In an industry with a history of wage-theft and cases of modern day slavery, the Fair Food Program has truly brought a new day to the fields of Florida. Immokalee, FL produces over 90% of our nation’s fresh tomatoes during the fall/winter season, which is why it is crucial for corporations which buy large quantities of Florida tomatoes such Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program.

Present at the protest was a large contingent of students from Ohio State and Denison University. Ohio State student Cruz Bonlarron Martinez of the newly formed OSU chapter of Student-Farmworker Alliance (SFA) said, “It is essential that Ohio students take a stand and ask Ohio-based Wendy’s to support Florida farmworkers who work tirelessly to provide the food we eat.”

Columbus was very fortunate to be visited by CIW member Nely Rodriguez and Claudia Saenz, a national organizer for the SFA. Columbus was the last stop in a whirlwind Midwest tour in which Nely shared her story with people of faith, students, and community emphasizing the importance of Wendy’s joining the Fair Food Program and why the support of Ohioans across the state is essential. It was awe-inspiring to hear Nely and her 4-year-old son leading chants in Spanish and English with a crowd that was simply undeterred by the weather.

The momentum will be picking up, so get ready to hear about upcoming Wendy’s actions in November!

Ohio Fair Food meets every 3rd Wednesday of the month. To learn more, please “Like” Ohio Fair Foodon Facebook, and contact ohiofairfood@gmail.com to find out ways to get involved!

And so the CIW’s Tour is a wrap — but it’s only the beginning of what is shaping up to be an action-filled fall for Wendy’s in the Midwest!

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