Watch out, Wendy’s! 100+ Encuentro participants, farmworkers protest for Fair Food…


CIW members, students: “Maybe Wendy’s will continue to refuse to be a part of the Program today — but every day, there are more and more of us, and someday, Wendy’s will sign…”

This past weekend, after months of planning and preparation, the Student / Farmworker Alliance hosted the 11th annual Encuentro in Immokalee, where students and young people from around the country gathered for a weekend to lay out a year’s worth plans for the Campaign for Fair Food. Of course, being members of the Fair Food Nation, the weekend’s participants also worked in a bit of action amidst all the conversation!

Energized from two days of workshops, strategic planning, and learning about the Fair Food Program and the road ahead for the CIW, the scores of Encuentro participants visiting Immokalee were ready to hit the streets by late Saturday afternoon for a dual Publix-Wendy’s protest in Naples. Today, we wanted to share a report from the inspiring weekend protest — which, to be sure, was only a taste of the season ahead for Publix, Wendy’s, Kroger and any other major food retailer still turning it back on the Fair Food Program.

Carrying signs still glittering with fresh paint, over 100 students, farmworkers and their families poured onto the sidewalk in front of Publix on the highly-trafficked U.S. 41 in Naples…


The crowd quickly coalesced into a high-energy, colorful picket, led by the young…


…and the very-young…


…and even the very-very-youngest new CIW member. Raymond Perkins, meet the Fair Food Nation. Fair Food Nation, meet little Ray Ray:


In keeping with a longtime Campaign for Fair Food tradition, the protest was not only resplendent with visual artwork but also with live music. The beat of the picket was set by accompanying musicians (many of whom have been strumming to Fair Food actions for almost a decade now!) and the more musically-inclined CIW members…


Some new themes were spotted in the crowd, as well, including a wave of student support not just for the Fair Food Program, but also for the underlying and quickly-expanding model of Worker-driven Social Responsibility…


Now, Publix was not the only company on Encuentro participants’ minds last Saturday. After sending in a delegation to meet with a Publix manager, the protest jubilantly marched down Highway 41 to a certain fast food chain…



Chanting and cheering, the 100+ farmworkers and young people arrived at Wendy’s, the company with the doubly-dubious distinction of being the only major fast food chain still outside of the Fair Food Program and, since this past spring, the target of a student-led national boycott.

In the final hour of Saturday’s protest, the crowd gathered to hear reports from both the Publix and Wendy’s delegations:


CIW member Lupe Gonzalo (above, left):

This season, students will keep up the pressure on Wendy’s, and not allow the company to blind them. Maybe Wendy’s will continue to refuse to be a part of the Program today, but every day, there are more and more of us, and someday, Wendy’s will sign. We are a stone in Wendy’s shoe — and we’re going to be there until they sign — so that they no longer trample our rights!

Barry University student Quayneshia Smith:

I told the Publix manager that as a student at Barry University and as a Floridian, I would like to see Publix join the Fair Food Program. Until then, students will be supportive of the CIW until Publix sits down with them and signs an agreement.

And to top it all off, called to order by Elias Perez (perhaps you recognized him from his stellar acting skills in the Encuentro promotional video), the students cheered for one great big “selfie” before heading back to Immokalee:


The action — and the entire Encuentro weekend — reverberated well beyond Southwest Florida across social media. Dozens of tweets, posts, and comments documented the weekend:

There was so much traffic for Wendy’s and Publix twitter streams that Wendy’s got a little bit confused about the attention they were getting…


Naturally, the large protest not only caught fire on social media, but also caught the attention of local news. In addition to a photo report from the Naples Daily News, the protest was covered by the local Fox 4 station:


CIW workers put the heat on Publix, Wendy’s

By Adam Pinsker. CREATED Sep 12, 2015

NAPLES, Fl. – More than 100 members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers took to the streets of Naples Saturday calling on Publix and Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program. […]

[…] 14 major retailers are participating FFP, including Burger King, McDonalds and Subway. All together, the chains have paid $16 million in penny-per-pound payments to increase income for Florida tomato pickers.

CIW is calling on Publix and Wendy’s to do the same. “We talk about the penny — it’s a little bit, but for the workers it means a lot,” said CIW member Santiago Perez.

CIW workers delivered a letter to the store manager of the Publix on Neopolitan Way and Tamiami Trail in Naples Saturday. The letter urged Publix to join FFP, a request the Lakeland based grocer has resisted for several years.

In a statement emailed to Fox 4, Publix said:

“Our position has not changed. This is a labor dispute between the farmer and farm worker. We continue to ask that the farmer put it in the price.”

“It’s bogus, its ridiculous, it’s their duty to get involved with the products they sell,” countered [student ally Carlos] Salamanca.

Wendy’s sent a similar, if stunningly disingenuous, statement saying:

“We require our suppliers to adhere to state and federal requirements related to worker health and safety, and we are proud to work with responsible companies who share our commitment to quality and doing the right thing.”

This from the company whose decision to run from social responsibility in Florida and shift its tomato purchases to Mexico (yes, Mexico, the internationally-recognized bastion of human rights for farmworkers) prompted a national student boycott…

As we’ve seen time and time again, those pallid arguments offered by major corporate retailers cannot withstand consumer scrutiny for long in the 21st century. In the face of the sweeping success and expansion of the Fair Food Program, and the growing consumer and worker demand for Worker-driven Social Responsibility everywhere from factories in Bangladesh to dairy farms in Vermont, major retailers’ excuses and rationales for avoiding responsibility evaporate, sooner or later, under the heat of the spotlight.

If the past weekend was any indication, this generation of spirited, committed young people will surely continue to stand alongside all workers in demanding real, systemic change in global supply chains.