Epic rally, street theater, march through Midtown Manhattan launch second boycott in 15-year history of Campaign for Fair Food!
The Campaign for Fair Food has known many an historic moment in its 15-year history — the launch of the seminal Taco Bell Boycott, the victory in that campaign four years later that established the Fair Food principles, the raucous celebration of the second Fair Food agreement with McDonald’s at Chicago’s House of Blues, the first-ever agreement with a Florida tomato grower in 2010 that led to the agreement with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange one month later and the launch of the Fair Food Program, and the agreement with the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, in 2014, just to name a few.
But even against the background of that heady timeline of struggle and change marking the progress of the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food over the past decade and a half, yesterday’s launch of the Wendy’s Boycott stands out as a momentous day in the fight for Fair Food.
And so to commemorate that day, we bring you a video and a photo report that capture — or do their best to capture — the size and spirit of Day One in the Workers’ Voice Tour, day one of the Wendy’s Boycott.
First up, here’s a video overview of the day, from the kickoff rally off Columbus Circle to the march on the Park Avenue offices of Trian Partners, Wendy’s Board Chairman Nelson Peltz’s activist hedge fund (and Wendy’s largest shareholder):
And of course, here is the photo report, chronicling the day’s events from start to finish:
The day began as the bus that left Florida the day before arrived in NYC and workers from Immokalee disembarked at the rally site on the corner of 58th Street and 8th Avenue, where they were met by hundreds of allies from across the city.
Speakers included Kerry Kennedy (above), President of Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights: “The State Department of the United States of America said the CIW is one of the greatest groups on earth in the fight against slavery. Anti-Slavery International said the CIW is one of the greatest organizations on earth fighting slavery. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, said the CIW is one of the greatest groups in the world stopping slavery. We are here today in solidarity with the CIW and with farmworkers across the country and we are taking this fight to Wendy’s because Wendy’s we need your help, we need to end exploitation and respect farmworkers.”
Reverend Michael Livingston (above), Executive Minister at New York’s historic Riverside Church: “What Wendy’s is doing is unethical, unjust, and immoral. In the terms of my faith, it is sinful. It offends God. Wendy’s has got to learn that you can’t run away from the Fair Food Program!”
Brad Lander, New York City Council Member, representing Brooklyn’s 39th District: “So we’re proud to be here today, we’re proud to join the march, we’re proud to boycott Wendy’s, and we will keep it up until we win and they join the Fair Food Program!”
Gabriella Quintanilla (above), representing the Student/Farmworker Alliance: “Student/Farmworker Alliance has been organizing for three years now to bring Wendy’s on board, and last year we announced a national student boycott. And we will continue to do so because Wendy’s needs to get on board. Get with it, Wendy’s, get with it!”
And, of course, Lupe Gonzalo and Gerardo Reyes of the CIW: (Lupe) “Eleven years ago, the CIW won the first Fair Food agreement with Taco Bell. Since then, the progress that has been achieved in the tomato industry has changed our lives as workers significantly.” (Gerardo) “Those changes have resulted in one of the most profound transformations that the agricultural industry has ever seen. You would think that, after so many agreements and so much progress, corporations would no longer need this kind of pressure to recognize the humanity of workers in their supply chains.” (Lupe) “Wendy’s hasn’t only refused to sign an agreement with farmworkers here, they are trying to escape responsibility to buy tomatoes in Mexico where there is still exploitation, taking advantage of the poverty of those workers where there is still forced labor, sexual abuse, and child labor.” (Gerardo) “As workers, we are here to tell Wendy’s that that is the worst decision they could have made.”
Following the speeches, the theater began, the world premiere of “The Wedding of Wendy’s and the Tomato of Wrath.” First on the stage was the Tomato, preceded by a bent and broken figure representing the workers who pick it, workers abused without remedy and paid poverty wages…
… next to walk the aisle, Wendy’s dressed in her finest for the big day.
A Justice of the Peace read the vows: “We are here to unite in holy matrimony the last of the fast food companies to refuse to participate in the Fair Food Program with the farms where there’s no respect for the human rights of their farmworkers.
Wendy’s do you accept the Tomato of Wrath and promise to always buy tomatoes where the workers don’t have a voice or rights? Where there are no health or safety protections and where the Fair Food Program does not exist? SI!
Tomato of Wrath, do you accept Wendy’s as your wife, promising to sell her tomatoes picked where there is no guarantee of workers’ rights, and where there are abuses like wage theft, sexual harassment, and violence in the fields, until death do you part? SI!”
If anyone can show just cause why these two should not be joined together in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace…”
A worker rises from the crowd and declares: “I oppose this marriage!”
“I am a tomato picker from Florida and I oppose this wedding because Wendy’s ignores the voice of the worker. She doesn’t support our rights. She even invented an empty code of conduct just to try to distract the public from our code of conduct that is functioning and improving things for workers.”
Following the worker, a grower spoke, denouncing Wendy’s for having run to Mexico “where there’s documented sexual harassment, child labor and even modern-day slavery,” and following the grower a consumer (above) spoke, declaring, “I’m not going to eat anymore at Wendy’s until they sign the Fair Food Agreement!”
Hearing the opponents’ reasons, the Justice of the Peace decides, “I have no choice but to call off this union. The wedding is canceled. And the bride and groom are ordered to Join the Fair Food Program immediately!” And with that, the banner was lifted: Boycott Wendy’s!
And the crowd couldn’t have agreed more…
… but there was still one thing left to do — switch out the old signs…
… for the new! And with the brand new “Boycott Wendy’s” signs out of storage and raised high throughout the crowd, the march to Trian Partners on Park Avenue could begin.
… and thousands of flyers distributed to curious — and supportive! — onlookers…
… art that rivaled even the best that New York’s streets had to offer…
… and marching music from the ever-true Rude Mechanical Orchestra…
… the march made its way down the 1.5 mile route and into the night. The crowd swelled with allies old and new, including New York’s own Make the Road (who joined us on the very first Taco Bell Truth Tour, for that matter, back in 2002)…
… and Domestic Workers United…
… before it finally arrived in front of Trian’s offices and broke into two circling pickets stretching the length of the block.
The hour-long picket provided still more time to educate passersby with flyers and friendly conversation (here the newest generation of the Fair Food Nation gets busy explaining why we were protesting in front of this particular building).
And as night fell, the message of the day rang out loud and clear: Boycott Wendy’s!
A message shouted to the rooftops and echoing off the walls of some of Midtown Manhattan’s most expensive real estate…
… a message that many in those luxurious offices were hearing for the first time, though most certainly not for the last.
Check back soon as the Workers’ Voice Tour makes its way to its next big stop and action in Columbus, OH, Wendy’s corporate hometown!