“Behind the Braids” Wendy’s Boycott Tours hit the Mid-Atlantic!

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Wendy’s Boycott on the rise in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Western Maryland and Pennsylvania…

As we hit the halfway mark of the six “Behind the Braids” Wendy’s Boycott tours, there is no doubt that the fast food giant is feeling the pressure coming from all corners of the Fair Food Nation!

Instead of deterring consumers from standing with farmworkers, Wendy’s recent public statement of half-truths, innuendo and outright fabrications fueled both ire and energy among hundreds of consumer allies on the fourth “Behind the Braids” tour, which criss-crossed the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  

A week of back-to-back presentations, community gatherings, and colorful protests spread the word of the national Wendy’s Boycott, taking the Immokalee crew both to longtime hubs of the Fair Food Nation, like DC and Philly, as well as to several new — and now equally mobilized — communities in rural Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Once again, we bring you the exciting report straight from the Tour crew:

Philadelphia & Baltimore

The “Behind the Braids” Mid-Atlantic tour kicked off in Philadelphia with a visit to The Simple Way, an intentional faith community in North Philadelphia’s inner city begun by longtime CIW supporter Shane Claiborne, who has marched alongside the CIW time and again since before the start of the Campaign for Fair Food.  From there, we headed to Chestnut Hill College and the University of Pennsylvania, building support with hundreds of new college students and young people.  Buzz among students in Philly for the upcoming action just a couple of hours south in Washington, D.C. quickly gathered momentum!

Students at UPenn proudly take up the Fair Food banner

Students at UPenn proudly take up the Fair Food banner

After a packed day in Philadelphia, we struck out for Baltimore.  An evening event at café and bookstore Red Emma’s drew an eager crowd of both new supporters and familiar faces.  

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We were inspired to be accompanied by allies who had been with the CIW in workers’ struggle for justice for years, including members of recent Boycott endorser, the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, and Ken Brown, a minister and poet known as Analysis, who welcomed the CIW by performing a powerful piece of spoken word dedicated to the Coalition.

Washington, D.C.

With energy mounting across the region for Sunday’s march, the Mid-Atlantic tour then set its sights on Fair Food stronghold Washington, D.C.!  DC Fair Food, the powerhouse Fair Food group that sustains and grows local support for the CIW’s work in the nation’s capital, handed us a busy schedule of events for our days in Washington.

On Thursday and Friday, we hosted a packed Food Chains screening at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library and a Student/Farmworker Alliance teach-in at George Washington University, attended by students from across D.C.  We connected with longtime allies at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, and local urban farm Three Part Harmony.  

2016-behind-braids-mid_atlantic-0131Just ahead of the Sunday action, nearly one hundred Fair Food supporters in the District crowded into Haydee’s restaurant to celebrate the CIW’s arrival to the sounds of local bands and Son Cosita Seria’s loyal group of jaraneros for an evening fundraiser (left).

And so arrived Sunday afternoon:  We were welcomed to Lafayette Square in front of the White House by scores of students from Georgetown University, George Washington University, and American University, and the University of Pennsylvania; clergy and lay leaders from local Catholic, Episcopal, Quaker, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations; and community members from across the Mid-Atlantic for the culminating action of the tour.

After a joyful welcome from Julia de la Cruz of the CIW and Ceci Behgam of DC Fair Food, Victoria Goncalves from GW University spoke to the importance of students’ formidable presence at the march — and their equally formidable leadership in the national boycott of a restaurant squarely focused on its youth market.  The Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director of Refugee & Immigration Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), then blessed the group gathered on that sunny afternoon to take a stand with farmworkers.

With that, the march kicked off!  Marching nearly two miles in downtown DC on the busy New York Ave thoroughfare, the lively group caught the attention of thousands of passersby with chants that echoed off DC’s downtown buildings: “Wendy’s you are all alone / With your frosty heart and your empty code! We’ll ignore your 4 for $4 / Until you pay a penny more!”

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The march turned into a colorful picket outside of the downtown Wendy’s.  A delegation went inside to deliver a letter from DC Fair Food to Wendy’s management.  Received instead by local Wendy’s employees, the delegation made their intentions crystal clear:  The crowd of consumers outside were there to call on decision-makers within Wendy’s with the power to do right by farmworkers to act. The high-energy action concluded with a reflection from the delegation group on the importance of solidarity and of growing the Wendy’s Boycott in the District of Columbia. 

Western Maryland & Southern Pennsylvania

But the Mid-Atlantic tour didn’t stop there.  To pull the tour to a close, we headed west toward the Appalachian mountains – aflame with autumn colors during these final weeks of October – to bring news of the consumer boycott of Wendy’s to the small towns of Southern Pennsylvania and Western Maryland.

We stopped first at St. John’s UCC in Salisbury, Pennsylvania, to plant seeds of consciousness across the community.  Julia de la Cruz led a teach-in for faith leaders in the region about the decades of Immokalee farmworkers’ struggle for justice and the powerful voice brought by people of faith to this movement.  Later that evening, community members from several UCC and Mennonite churches in the area gathered for a screening of the documentary Food Chains.  The next day, the tour team visited Frostburg State University in Maryland, generating a rich discussion among students and faculty about how to amplify the national Wendy’s Boycott in this breathtaking corner of the country.

And with that, the Mid-Atlantic Behind the Braids tour is a wrap.  Stay tuned for more as the Campaign grows and builds in this region – and watch for next week’s report from the road as the Texas tour finishes up!

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