PHOTO REPORT: Mississippians bring the Wendy’s Boycott to the Deep South!

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Food justice, farmworker rights, and Wendy’s Boycott make waves in the Magnolia State!

After nearly two decades, and thousands upon thousands of protests from Maine to California, there are very few corners of this great land of ours that the Campaign for Fair Food has yet to reach.   But today, we are pleased to bring you news of a new milestone in the Fair Food movement —  a photo report from the campaign’s first-ever splash in Jackson, Mississippi!

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Last week, a delegation from Immokalee traveled to Jackson to take part in the Mississippi Food Summit and Agricultural Revival, hosted by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network.

The Summit featured the voices of farmworkers alongside those of small farmers and food justice advocates from around the state, all of whom were held up as the leaders sorely needed to fix the cracks in the country’s vast food system.  Conversations drew parallels between the CIW’s farmworker-led fight for fundamental human rights in the fields and the ongoing struggle of Mississippians to cultivate local, healthy food — as well as thriving, equitable communities — in the shadow of the region’s long history of deep racial and economic injustice.

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CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo discusses the community power built by farmworkers and consumers over the past two decades that forms the basis of today’s structural changes in the Florida agricultural industry. Also pictured (from left): Dr. Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Dorothy Grady-Scarborough of Mississippians for Greener Agriculture, Rukia Lumumba of Cooperation Jackson, and Ben Burkett of the Indian Springs Farmers Co-Op. PHOTO CREDIT: Creceda LeMaire

After a long, inspiring day of dialogue and exchange between small farmers, community leaders, students, food justice advocates, and farmworkers, it was, of course, time to take action!

Last Saturday, nearly 50 allies gathered at the Mississippi Farmers’ Market for the state’s inaugural boycott march on a local Jackson Wendy’s.  The protest, organized by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network, was well-attended by students and faculty from Ole Miss and the University of Georgia, local elementary school students, and community leaders active in environmental, immigrant rights, and racial justice movements in Jackson and other parts of the state (all documented by the awesome Brian Williams!).

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CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo kicked it off by welcoming the crowd…

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…which included allies of all ages!

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Warmed up and ready to go, the marchers stepped off, steady chants rising as the crowd made its way to the prominent Wendy’s just down the road…

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Arriving at the Wendy’s, protesters formed a loud and joyful picket under the afternoon sun outside the store.

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Though the local Wendy’s manager, like many of her peers, rejected a local delegation’s letter, the protest and its impact were felt all the way up the food chain and throughout Jackson.  As Lupe concluded, “Whether or not they accepted the letter, we showed Wendy’s the power that consumers have across the country!”

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The local Jackson Free Press caught wind of the action, and published an excellent report on the day’s event and the overall movement for Fair Food across the country, titled “Protesters March on Wendy’s for Workers’ Rights”:

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Protesters March On Wendy’s for Workers’ Rights

Wendy’s on High Street got traffic from more than just the lunch crowd this week. The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network and the Florida-based Coalition for Immokalee Workers brought dozens of activists from around Mississippi and as far away as Florida together at the Mississippi Farmers Market Saturday at the biannual Mississippi Food Summit and Agricultural Revival, and then marched to the nearby fast-food restaurant. The march was in protest of the world’s third-largest fast food chain’s refusal to participate in the Fair Food Program.

“We’re here in Mississippi today joined by dozens of allies here locally to educate people about the conditions in which Wendy’s brings the tomatoes that it sells to its customers,” said Lupe Gonzalo, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Founded in 1993 and led by farm workers, the human-rights organization spearheaded the Fair Food Program in 2011, which asks corporations to buy “exclusively from suppliers who meet a worker-driven code of conduct, which includes a zero-tolerance policy for forced labor and sexual harassment,” a Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network press release says. Corporations must also pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes they purchase from their suppliers, which helps pay workers better wages.

Since 2011, buyers have paid more than $22 million into the program.

Gonzalo said Wendy’s participation would show commitment not only to better wages for workers, but also respect for the people who farm their tomatoes.

“(Joining means) committing to a code of conduct in which the workers’ rights are respected and which has zero tolerance for the worst of abuses including sexual harassment and modern-day slavery, and that the voice of the worker is respected throughout the supply chain, she said at the Jackson protest. She added that farm workers must have the right to speak out against abuses they face without fear of retaliation… Read more

The CIW’s first visit to Jackson will surely not be its last, as the ties that were formed there during this brief but brilliant stay will carry on well into the future.  Our struggles are too similar, our fates too bound up together, for us to go our separate ways now.  We thank our friends in Mississippi for their heartfelt reception, and are already looking forward to returning the favor in Immokalee and the next time we can be together in this long fight for food justice, dignity, and fundamental human rights.

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