Northeast “Behind the Braids” Tour heads north to Providence, Boston!


Consumers across Northeast: “There’s nothing they can do to stop us.  We’re here under the rain, we’re building power, making noise, spreading a message…!”

After wrapping up a powerful visit to New York — which kicked off with a high-spirited march led by the ever-boisterous Lower East Side Girls Club and concluded with a stirring evening vigil outside the luxurious hedge fund offices of Wendy’s Board Chairman, Nelson Peltz — the Northeast “Behind the Braids” Tour headed up I-95 to spread the Fair Food word throughout historic New England!  

Today, we bring you the exciting reports from the last two stops of this fall’s third regional tour, the northeastern cities of Boston, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island!

Soon after the New York vigil in front of Nelson Peltz’s offices, we hit the road once again, and drove to Providence.  We started off our visit to the Renaissance City with a whirlwind of gatherings, including with students at Barrington Christian Academy and Brown University (through the Brown Student Labor Alliance), attendees of the local Quaker Meeting, parishioners at local churches and members of Central Falls’ Fuerza Laboral and the American Friends Service Committee.  


The warm welcome we received kept spirits high for a protest in pouring rain and harsh temperatures, which went on as planned in spite of the weather to make sure that Rhode Islanders learned about the national Wendy’s Boycott.  Soaked but still energized, the protest sent a delegation to explain our presence to the manager, but workers and students were instead not allowed to talk — and once again were told they would be arrested if they remained on Wendy’s property.  

After the delegation, CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo reflected on Wendy’s evolving response to the Campaign: “The crude rejection we experienced at the door today is not out of the ordinary: Wendy’s rejection is something we experience on a daily basis as farmworkers.  But recently, Wendy’s has been making that rejection more public and obvious, with managers using threats and aggression to keep us from any kind of dialogue – which just demonstrates Wendy’s lack of respect and their fear of what we are doing.” 

Cameron Johnson of the Brown Student Labor Alliance added: “… it’s clear that they want to make us afraid.  But there’s nothing they can do to stop us.  We’re here under the rain, we’re building power, making noise, spreading a message, and that is beautiful.  Don’t let anything dampen your motivation – this is a beautiful moment to me.”

Before leaving for Boston, we had the opportunity to participate in Direct Action for Rights and Equality’s 30th anniversary, celebrating DARE’s incredible history of grassroots organizing and their longtime connection with farmworker justice through the work of the CIW.


The Northeast tour ended in a historical seat of the CIW’s campaign: Boston, MA, where just a few years ago, consumer allies and farmworkers waged a successful campaign to bring Ahold USA (parent company to Quincy-based Stop & Shop) to join the Fair Food Program.

Immediately upon arrival, we were welcomed with warm hospitality for presentations and meetings in communities including Hillel B’nai Torah, Nehar Shalom, First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain, and Northeastern University.  The final action of the tour, over 60 strong, included an incredible array of community groups, not only the aforementioned organizations, but also the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, New England Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish Organizing Institute and Network, Boston Workmen’s Circle, Northeastern Real Food Challenge, Northeastern Progressive Student Alliance, MassCOSH, SEIU, Haley House, Clark Real Food Challenge, Harvard Student Labor Action Movement, Maine-based Mano en Mano, and local small farmers.  

The lively picket sent representatives to share our message with the manager, but the group was once again harshly rebuffed.  Hannah Hafter of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee reported on the group’s experience to the rest of the action participants, making the connection with conditions for farmworkers in Wendy’s supply chain: “The level of disrespect that we received five minutes ago when we went inside was quite shocking…. but the disrespect in terms of how we were treated is nothing in comparison to the kind of disrespect that farmworkers are facing every day in the fields.”  Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez of the Harvard Student Labor Action Movement drew the connection between Harvard dining workers’ ongoing strike and the struggle of the CIW: “We’re here today because all workers deserve respect, but obviously corporations like Wendy’s think otherwise.”  


As if a portent of things to come, in the wake of the “Behind the Braids” visit, Harvard University itself agreed to all the demands of their dining workers, who had also counted on the stalwart support of the school’s Labor Action Movement — underscoring one, indisputable truth: when workers stand up for their rights, and others join them, we are unstoppable.  

In New England as in New York, the Midwest, and the Southeast, powerful coalitions of students, people of faith, and community leaders are mobilizing, and they are pledging to not only boycott Wendy’s, but to spread the movement to every corner of their state in the year ahead.

With three of the six Behind the Braids tours still to come, stay tuned for more reports in November from the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and the great state of Texas!