Media round-up! From Columbus to Tampa, talk of Wendy’s Boycott spreading like wildfire…

A sign outside of the encampment of 19 student fasters at The Ohio State University

… But before we get to the links, first we need your help with a snap action to support OSU student fasters:  Sign and share Student/Farmwoker Alliance’s petition for OSU President Drake this morning!

Between the Return to Human Rights Tour’s fast-paced progress through the South and Midwest, and the weeklong fast for farmworker justice of 19 students at the Ohio State University, the spotlight of local press has been closely tracking the Fair Food movement!

Today, we want to bring you a quick round-up of the latest coverage of the tour — documenting both some of the action from this past week, and also what’s next on the horizon.

First, however, we have a quick, critical action we need you to take this morning:  Sign and share a petition of support for the 19 Ohio State University student fasters, who will be meeting with President Michael Drake of OSU in just a few hours to discuss the urgent need for the University to cut ties with Wendy’s until it joins the award-winning Fair Food Program.  This morning, as fasters head into their mid-morning meeting with the President, add your voice to theirs by signing, and sharing, this petition from the Student/Farmworker Alliance!

Now, without further ado, here is your media round-up:

First up, The Ohio State University’s paper of record, the Lantern, has published an update on the 19-student fast that today is entering Day 5, looking ahead Sunday’s much-anticipated Parade for Human Rights.  Here are some of the article highlights:

Organizations prepare for more protest against Wendy’s

Students from the Ohio State Student/Farmworker Alliance will be outside of Bricker Hall fasting in protest of OSU’s contract with Wendy’s from March 20 to 25. Credit: Mitch Hooper | Engagement Editor

Members of the Ohio State Student/Farmworker Alliance, farmworkers from Immokalee, Florida, and other protesters from across the country will join together Sunday in Columbus for the coalition’s national Return to Human Rights tour to continue pushing its message to Wendy’s of joining the Fair Food Program as well as continuing putting pressure on the university to end its contract with Wendy’s for its Wexner Medical Center location.

The march will begin at Goodale Park at 1 p.m. and end on campus. Santiago Perez, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said the group is expecting more than 1,000 people from across the country marching on Sunday.

Perez said he has worked almost every position as a farmworker. Through his experience, he said he feels farmworkers haven’t had a voice to fight for their rights, and this march gives them a chance to have that voice.

“I worked numerous years in agriculture, so I’ve seen the good side of things, and I’ve seen the bad side of things,”  Perez said through translator Jordan Buckley, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Leonel Perez, a farmworker and a member of the CIW, said the group has been organizing the march through Columbus since February. The march will feature floats created by OSU students of the Student/Farmworker Alliance as well as floats created by members of the CIW. Perez said this march excites him and the groups involved as they have won many campaigns in the past and are hoping to win this one as well.

“We want to demonstrate in front of the company Wendy’s that we possess dignity,” Leonel said through translator Buckley. “And that’s what we are looking for: recognition of our dignity as well as justice for the farmworkers.”

The Student/Farmworker Alliance is demanding the university ends its contract with Wendy’s so that they will join the Fair Food Program and adhere to its standards for tomato pickers. The program has added 14 major corporations to its program, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Chipotle and Wal-Mart, but it hasn’t convinced Wendy’s to join.

OSU’s contract with Wendy’s, which leases a location at the Wexner Medical Center, states the school will work to find “a resolution of the concerns of the Student Farmworkers Alliance regarding the procurement of tomatoes for the operation of Tenant’s business at the Premise that is satisfactory to Landlord in its sole discretion.” […]

[…] In addition to the march on Sunday, CIW will be hosting a vigil outside of the Wendy’s headquarters in nearby Dublin, Ohio, on Friday, where farmworkers from Florida will be joining members in Columbus at 3:30 p.m.  Additionally, on Saturday, a conference will be held at Summit on 16th United Methodist Church at 10 a.m. with different human rights organizations attending conducting educational workshops. The conference will end around 10 p.m. with musical performances including performances from the Peace Poets, a spoken word group from New York, and Olmeca, a hip-hop artist from California. 

The Return to Human Rights tour began March 16 and runs until March 29, with stops in 13 different cities. Following the stop in Columbus, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in conjunction with the Alliance for Fair Food will end the tour with a vigil in Tampa, Florida, according to a press release from the CIW.

Next up, looking ahead to the finale of the Return to Human Rights Tour in Tampa, the Florida city’s Creative Loafing site put out an excellent report, not only highlighting the upcoming dual Publix-Wendy’s action on March 29th, but also exploring in detail the driving force behind the Tour: the Fair Food Program.  Here are some of the highlights (though make sure to check out the full story over at the Creative Loafing website):

Still hungry for human rights, Immokalee Workers’ Return to Human Rights Tour stops in Tampa Wednesday

By Cat Modlin-Jackson
March 23, 2016

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its allies are planning to parade down the one-mile stretch between Publix Greenwise and Wendy’s on Kennedy Blvd near Hyde Park on Wednesday, March 29.

Their aim?

To draw attention to the companies’ refusal to join a program designed to upend decades of farmworker exploitation. A vigil outside of Wendy’s will mark the final stopping point of the CIW’s 2017 Fair Food Campaign tour.

Through CIW’s Fair Food Program, powerful corporate players in the tomato buying business—many of them highly recognizable brands—agree to uphold the CIW Fair Food Code of Conduct and pay a penny-per-pound premium that tomato growers pass on to workers. Walmart, Whole Foods and McDonalds are among companies that have signed onto the worker-led effort to make farms safer and healthier for laborers. In 2005, Taco Bell made history as the first company to sign the code after a years-long boycott led by CIW and socially mindful consumers. So many companies followed suit that CIW established the FFP to steer a larger scale effort to eliminate farm worker abuse. Wendy’s is the last of the fast food industry’s major buyers to join. […]

[…]  Nely Rodriguez stands next to the CIW parking lot, where activists put the finishing touches on floats for the Return to Human Rights Tour parade that will roll through the streets of Columbus, OH, just a few miles shy of the Wendy’s headquarters on March 26. Wearing a grey shirt with the Wendy’s freckle-faced mascot crossed out, Rodriguez, a former farm laborer who now educates workers about their rights, talked to CL about the code’s advances of human rights.

Under the FFP, workers once wrought by fear are now free to speak up when their wellbeing is jeopardized.  “As part of the Fair Food Program, we have a 24/7 complaint hotline in which workers now feel comfortable and empowered to report any complaints or abuses they have experienced,” Rodriguez said.

The hotline is just one of several FFP communication mechanisms workers can now use to voice complaints, which Rodriguez said will be heard and consequences will be likely—unlike the past.

“Before, if a farmworker were to report abuse, there was no resource for them to report that abuse and no assurance that they would be able to keep their job if they spoke out,” she said. “For example, a farmworker woman that reported sexual harassment would very likely lose her job or face threats. But now people know that there are consequences under the Fair Food Program for the grower, the supervisor, even the fellow worker.” […]

[…]  Dr. Fritz Roka, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics with the University of Florida, called the impact of the wage increase “tremendous.” Workers are typically paid for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. Through the FFP, their wages can jump from 50 cents to 75 cents per bucket, a 50 percent pay increase. But it’s the code of conduct for workplace conditions that’s revolutionizing the agribusiness community, said Roka.

Written and administered with the help of CIW, the code maintains that buyers can only purchase tomatoes from participating growers. A significant breach or continued misconduct could lead to growers’ removal from the program, effectively costing them the business of powerful buyers. […]

[…]  Meanwhile, buyers like Wendy’s and Publix continue to avoid the responsibility associated with joining the Fair Food Program, in spite of advocates’ insistence that only through action from the the highest level of the supply chain will workplace conditions improve.

“We support the goals of any organization that seeks to improve human rights, but we don’t believe in the principle of paying another company’s employees,” said Wendy’s representative Heidi Schauer.

When the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed on to the Fair Food Program, effectively bringing 90% of the Florida tomato program with it, Wendy’s shifted the bulk of their tomato purchases from Florida to Mexico. Advocates criticize the move as an evasion of mechanisms that monitor forced labor or workplace abuse. This month Wendy’s released an updated Supplier Code of Conduct. Notably absent is any language about zero-tolerance for workplace violence and slavery.

Publix takes a different approach to avoidance. Instead of addressing human rights violations, the Florida-based retailer describes workers’ objections to dangerous and problematic workplace conditions on farms as “labor disputes.” Per their public statement on the CIW campaign, “We believe it is the responsibility of all our suppliers — including Florida farmers who grow tomatoes and other produce — to manage their own workforce, including paying wages and providing work conditions that comply with federal and state laws.”

Unfazed by opposition, CIW shows no signs of shortening the strides made in furthering workers’ rights, and that doesn’t stop at the tomato fields. Recently the Fair Food Program’s revolutionary model has gained traction among strawberry and bell pepper growers. […]

[…] It took four years for CIW to win Taco Bell and its parent company Yum! Brands on the Fair Food Code of Conduct. On March 29, the CIW vigil outside of the Tampa Wendy’s will be the final stop on the tour, but it’s far from the last move for the CIW campaign for workers’ rights.

To wrap up, we bring you just one example of the attention garnered by the Return to Human Rights Tour in its trek through new territory in the Midwest!  Madison’s The Cap Times picked up on the exciting protest this past Tuesday:

Protesters target downtown Madison Wendy’s over farm labor issues

By Stephen Elbow
March 21, 2017

The little girl in pigtails looked down on an unfriendly crowd Tuesday as lunch traffic at the State Street Wendy’s hamburger joint in downtown Madison was hampered by a picket line.

Organized by a group of Florida activists, the protesters were part of a nationwide boycott movement for the Wendy’s chain, which has refused to sign onto a code of conduct for the labor that supplies its produce, an agreement that other fast-food chains have adopted.

“What we want them to do first is to commit to paying a penny more per pound for tomatoes to raise wages that have been stagnant for farm workers,” said Florida tomato picker Lupe Gonzalo. “And second, to commit to a human rights code of conduct in which workers have access to shade, water, clean bathrooms.”

About three dozen protesters gathered in front of Wendy’s at noon to protest the chain’s refusal to participate in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program. So far 14 retailers and fast-food chains, including McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell and Burger King, have signed on.

“Wendy’s is the only major fast-food corporation that’s still not participating,” said Patricia Cipollitti, an Alliance for Fair Food organizer.

The pact provides a framework for better wages, better working conditions and an end to abuses like sexual harassment and forced labor.

“Instead of joining the Fair Food Program, they’ve shifted their purchases to Mexico, where workers’ rights are not respected,” Cipollitti said.

The coalition is on a two-week, 12-city national tour, which will wind up this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, the site of Wendy’s headquarters.

“Allies from across the country are mobilizing to converge for a weekend of action,” Cipollitti said.

Protests include a hunger strike by Ohio State University students, who are protesting the university’s contract with Wendy’s.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, based in Immokalee, Florida, has been credited with improving bad farm worker conditions in Florida, a major provider of the U.S. tomato supply.

Rather than join the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s issued its own corporate social-responsibility code, which protesters say rings hollow.

Now:  Onward to Columbus!  Stay tuned tomorrow morning for a report from the OSU students’ meeting with President Drake, and the long-awaited arrival of the Return to Human Rights Tour to Columbus.