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

Student fasters protest in front of Wendy’s Headquarters during the Return to Human Rights Tour last month.

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 walked into the institution’s bi-monthly Board of Trustees meeting to give the president’s report on campus initiatives and activities from the previous two months.  Somehow, however, he neglected to mention the 7-day student fast that took place on his doorstep.  

Which means, of course, that President Drake also neglected to mention the critical question before the University:  When is enough, enough, when it comes to the university’s willingness to tolerate Wendy’s indefensible business decisions?  Is it when Wendy’s decided to stand alone among fast-food leaders in refusing to join the Presidential Medal-winning Fair Food Program?  Or when Wendy’s decided to actually abandon its longtime Florida growers — because they implemented the FFP — and shifted its purchases to Mexico, where human rights violations are endemic and go effectively unchecked?  Or is it when Wendy’s decided to paper over that decision by issuing a hollow suppliers’ code of conduct, or when a year later, after the code was roundly criticized as a public relations gambit, Wendy’s decided to issue still more inconsequential “improvements” to its code?  Or, at long last, is it when Wendy’s decided to try to change the subject by lying about the CIW and the penny-per-pound premium, as a spokesperson for the company did when talking to the press during last month’s protest tour?

Well, after two years of frustrating meetings and broken promises, and seven days of putting their very bodies on the line last month during a fast in the name of farmworker justice, OSU students were not about to let that silence slide.  Instead, if President Drake wasn’t going to inform the Board of Trustees, they decided that they would do it themselves.  Today, we bring you an inspiring update from the Student/Farmworker Alliance on the campaign at Ohio State — and news of the ripple effects their actions are having on campuses across the country.

… Over two dozen OSU students, alumni, professors and Columbus community members crashed the OSU Trustee meeting, loudly chanting “Keep your word! Cut the contract with Wendy’s!” and calling out President Drake for neglecting to mention one very important issue on campus: OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance’s burgeoning Boot the Braids campaign, and the University’s opportunity to be a leader among the country’s most prestigious universities in taking a stand for farmworker human rights.

Henry Peller (pictured above), one of the 19 brave OSU student fasters from last month’s weeklong fast at OSU, disrupted the meeting, putting President Drake on blast in front of his colleagues (and the 4,000+ people who watched the action live on Facebook) for breaking his promise to students and extending the Wendy’s on-campus lease.

“…By cutting the contract, OSU will push Wendy’s to join this program. Instead, OSU continues to be complicit in Wendy’s exploitation. Two years ago, OSU added a clause to the contract stating that Wendy’s must meet the concerns of the Student/Farmworker Alliance — that’s us — however, the contract was extended this past November, even though our concerns have not been met. Our concerns will only be met when Wendy’s signs the Fair Food Program. Will you, Board of Trustees, keep your word and cut the contract with Wendy’s?  Yes or no?”

Following the meeting, the group of students and their supporters gathered outside, where OSU student faster Reyna Lusson closed out the triumphant protest by delivering a powerful message for President Drake:

“We challenge you to imagine a world where the foods we eat are harvested with dignity and justice; where farmworkers can live and work without fear of sexual assault or harassment; where they earn a fair, living wage and can actually bring home the fruits of their labor to feed themselves and their families; where just one more penny per pound of tomatoes is enough to make a huge difference.

This is the world that exists for many farmworkers. The world that many have fought for and won already. This world is called the Fair Food Program. This world is possible and you have the power to help us create it.”

And as President Drake decides on whether or not to use the one form of real leverage within at his reach — namely, whether or not OSU will be a leader nationwide as the first university to ban Wendy’s from campus until the company joins the Fair Food Program — students and young people across the country are taking note and taking action.

Meanwhile, in Florida…

In the aftermath of last month’s 7-day fast by OSU students, an action that inspired the whole of the Fair Food Nation and millions more through national press coverage, SFAers in Florida have been among of those who have stepped up to the plate following OSU students’ call for others to take up the fast in support of their Boot the Braids campaign.

Today, the following five students at New College of Florida in Sarasota and Valencia College in Orlando begin a five-day fast in solidarity with OSU students, who the Floridians met during the Parade for Human Rights in Columbus last month:

  • Alex Schelle, New College of Florida, 3rd year student
  • Emily Anne King, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
  • Sarah Friend, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
  • Xavier Goud, Valencia College student
  • Ximena Pedroza, New College of Florida, 2nd year student
  • Yasmeen Wilson, New College of Florida, 2nd year student

New College students will bring attention to their fast with an impressive line-up of events throughout the week, including a dynamite panel on the Fair Food Program’s pioneering approach to addressing social responsibility in corporate supply chains, featuring members of the CIW, the Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network and Migrant Justice.  And of course, it wouldn’t be a week of action without a protest!  On Friday at 6 p.m., farmworkers, local religious leaders, community allies and fellow New College students will join the fasters for a Boycott Wendy’s picket at the Wendy’s on U.S. 41 in Sarasota.

And the national rolling fast doesn’t stop there:  Up next, students at University of South Florida, the University of Tampa, Eckerd College and Barry University will be continuing the next leg of the rolling student fast.

If you are a student and you are ready to join the inspiring movement spreading across the country, there’s still time to add your campus to the growing list.  Get in touch with the Student/Farmworker Alliance at organize (at) sfalliance.org to begin organizing your fast — and for everyone out there in the vast Fair Food nation, stay tuned for news on how you can support students in kicking Wendy’s off OSU’s campus before the semester ends!

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