OSU student fast enters Day 3: “Our bellies are empty, but our hearts are full!”

“We’re fasting in solidarity with workers for a better world”…

OSU Student fast builds power in Columbus;  Return to Human Rights Tour hits Madison, Wisconsin!

Today, we bring you exciting updates from two fronts in the growing Wendy’s Boycott:  First, the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, the focal point of the national Boot the Braids campaign as the student-led fast there enters Day 3; and second, Madison, Wisconsin, the sixth stop on the Return to Human Rights Tour, which is set to converge with the student fast in just a few short days when the Immokalee crew reaches Ohio this weekend.

Columbus, Ohio

This morning, at the heart of OSU’s campus, 19 students are entering Day 3 of their fast to hold the university to its original promise, now broken — to terminate the university’s lease with Wendy’s should the corporation not satisfy the concerns of the OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance.  The students’ demand: that Wendy’s join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the gold standard for the protection of farmworkers’ human rights in the food industry today.

Here is the report from Days 1 and 2 of the OSU fast, just in from Columbus:

A pink-streaked Monday sunrise found a committed group of Ohio State University students, alumni, and community members gathered in front of Bricker Hall, OSU’s administration building, to open their week-long fast for farmworker justice.

In the afternoon, fasters left their tent for the first of what will be a 5-day ritual of delegations into Bricker Hall.  After being informed that President Drake was not in (despite an earlier sighting of the President, ducking into his office through the back door), the fasters delivered a package of tomato seeds to represent the choice the administration has to make: OSU can nurture the growing respect for human rights in agriculture by aligning the university with the award-winning Fair Food Program, or the administration can ignore its responsibility to the values of the students it represents and allow the potential fruits of justice to wither by continuing to do business with Wendy’s while Wendy’s continues to turn its back on human rights.  

And as they will do every day this week, students held an empty chair at their closing meeting, inviting President Drake to sit down and prove OSU’s commitment to justice by ending the contract with Wendy’s.

On Monday, President Drake did not attend the meeting, though he stopped by the fasting students’ tent on campus to wish them well.  Meanwhile, several other university administrators were sent to communicate their concern for students’ health and their understanding of students’ desire to work for human rights. Yet, all fell woefully short of substantively addressing the students’ pressing concerns about Wendy’s.

Student fasters spent Day 2 reflecting and waiting outside Bricker Hall, this time without any cordial visits from administrators, and ended the day marching together to the Wendy’s on High Street — a highly visible and well-frequented location by many in the nearby campus community. Singing new songs composed by the Peace Poets, the fasters ended the day in high spirits: “Our bellies are empty, but our hearts are full / We’re fasting with workers for a better world / We want, we want, we want justice / we want, we want, we want it now.”

As messages of support and commitments to fast in solidarity flood in from across the national Student/Farmworker Alliance and Alliance for Fair Food networks, the press has also turned a spotlight on the fast. Local NPR affiliate in Columbus WOSU highlighted the student fast in their radio news broadcast on Monday, featuring an interview with faster Alex Hoey:

Alex Hoey, a student participating in the fast, says the university went back on its word. “We fast not only to urge Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program but to also urge OSU to cut their contract with Wendy’s,” Hoey says.

“We’re very frustrated,” Hoey says. “We definitely feel like OSU is stalling. So we are going to have a presence outside of the [Bricker] building to say we will not go away. You can starve our bodies, but you can never starve our movement.”

OSU’s campus publication, The Lantern, which is read and respected by students, faculty, staff, and university administrators alike, honed in on why and how students are currently undertaking this enormous sacrifice amid one of the busiest moments in the semester:

Members of the Student/Farmworker Alliance said the purpose [of the weeklong fast] is to intensify pressure on the university to end its current contract with Wendy’s…

The group plans to meet outside Bricker Hall at 8:30 a.m. every day this week and hold open meetings at 4 p.m., where administration members are invited to join the discussion. Group member Ben Wibking, a graduate student in astronomy, said the meetings are designed to foster “meaningful conversation” with the administration, but ultimately to get OSU to end its contract with Wendy’s as soon as possible.

“We want (University President Michael Drake) to come and explain that if they can end their Wendy’s contract now, why aren’t they doing that,” Wibking said…  Read more

Check out the rest of the press-round up of the fast so far below:

Madison, Wisconsin

As the students continued to fast in front of towering Bricker Hall at the Ohio State University, the Return to Human Rights Tour took one step closer to this weekend’s massive mobilization in Columbus — this time through Madison, Wisconsin.

Yesterday morning, following a warm community gathering at El Centro Hispano in downtown Madison, the tour crew headed over to the University of Wisconsin Madison to step off a colorful protest at Wendy’s, just down the street from the heart of campus on State Street…

… accompanied by the local Forward Marching Band, which brought new layers of funky rhythm to the familiar chants of “Boycott Wendy’s!” and “Up, Up with the Fair Food Nation, Down, down with exploitation!”

The group of nearly 50 supporters was a powerful mix of students and faculty from the University, community and labor leaders, clergy from across an array of denominations, and of course, farmworkers from Immokalee — a recipe that has brought fourteen major food retailers into the Fair Food Program to date.

Sister Maureen McDonnell, Catholic Sisters of the Dominican Order

For today’s final note, we share the words of Sister Maureen McDonnell (pictured above), who perfectly captured the collective sentiment of the crowd in Madison:

We, as American consumers, need to hear your call for justice as much as the people from Wendy’s need to hear it.  We want and need to be in solidarity with you — and I hope you know that the Catholic Church is also beside you.  Pope Francis has made it clear that all workers deserve a just wage and humane working conditions, no matter what.  

Our Catholic tradition has clearly taught, for over 125 years, that all workers — really, all people — deserve respect, as children of God.  The Wendy’s Corporation has a moral obligation to treat you well, and until they do so, I pledge not to buy any food from Wendy’s, and pledge to encourage others not to do so as well.  That is one small thing that I can do to stand in solidarity with you.  May God bless your energy and your hard work, and the effort you put forth to gain justice for yourselves, for your families, and for all people.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from Columbus as well as the road as we ramp up toward this weekend’s mobilization!