Boot the Braids campaigns surge in Columbus, Tampa Bay!

A student at University of Tampa pledges to join the Wendy’s boycott after talking with fasting students staffing an information table and spreading word of Wendy’s refusal to join the Presidential-medal winning Fair Food Program.

Number of fasting students doubles overnight in Tampa, as news of Wendy’s unconscionable failure to respect Florida farmworkers’ human rights spreads across campuses!…

Plus, CALL TO ACTION: Ohio State students call for Fair Food Nation to send videos to OSU administration before Sunday…

The rising tide of student action following last month’s Return to Human Rights Tour hit yet another high water mark this week, with major developments in the national Boot the Braids Campaign taking shape on campuses in both Columbus, Ohio, and the Tampa Bay area here in Florida (with still much more to come from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, too!). 

Early this week, excitement about the student fasts at the University of Tampa, University of South Florida and Eckerd College in St. Petersburg rippled through their respective campus communities as fasters educated their peers and swiftly grew their ranks to double the amount of students inspired to fast for farmworker justice.  Just since Tuesday, the number of students in the Tampa Bay region taking part in the rolling 3-day fasts has jumped from 8 to 16, not to mention more than 30 additional students who fasted for one day in solidarity!

Meanwhile, students spearheading the movement for farm labor justice on the campus of Ohio State University — ground zero for the national Boot the Braids Campaign — are organizing a major mobilization for later this month and have launched an urgent Call to Action (see below) for everyone across the Fair Food Nation.  

So, today we bring you updates, photos, and media from OSU and the Tampa Bay area — with more to come in the days and weeks ahead, including an update from Vanderbilt where, as it is in Tampa, the fast is going strong and growing!

Columbus, Ohio: Birthplace of the national rolling fast… 

Ever since last month’s weeklong fast by 19 OSU students, alumni, and community members, the campaign to kick Wendy’s off the Columbus campus has only grown stronger.  Students and alumni at OSU have been meeting several times a week since breaking their fast and passing the torch to students at the University of Michigan, planning actions to keep the pressure up on the administration and hold the university accountable to the promise it made to satisfy the students’ legitimate concerns before renewing Wendy’s lease to do business on campus.  

OSU student fasters at the culmination of their seven-day fast in March 2017

Just 10 days ago, students brought their demand for OSU to honor the language on farm labor conditions in its contract with Wendy’s directly to the university’s Board of Trustees with a powerful action.  Next on the horizon is a major mobilization on April 25th, the “Keep Your Word” Rally on OSU’s campus at 3PM.  

And in recognition of the Fair Food Nation’s embrace of the OSU campaign (including the rolling student fasts, the national call-in day two weeks ago when scores of calls flooded President Drake’s office, and countless messages of support sent directly to the student activists), OSU students have forged a new rallying cry for next Tuesday’s action:  “The world is watching, OSU.  Keep your word, cut the contract with Wendy’s!”

To ramp up for the April 25th action, students have put out the following Call to Action to the Fair Food Nation:

Stand in solidarity with students at OSU by sending a short, 30-second to one-minute video addressed to the OSU administration by Sunday, April 23rd.  Students at OSU will be sharing these videos with Ohio State administrators to send the message that we will not stop taking action until they do the right thing by cutting its contract with Wendy’s.

Consider the following points that can be used as a guide to send your message to the OSU administration:

What’s the message?

  • In your video, directly address President Drake and the leadership of OSU
  • Include the message:  “OSU, we’re watching you. Keep your word and cut the contract with Wendy’s.”
  • By maintaining this contract, OSU is complicit in the human rights abuses of farmworkers in Wendy’s supply chain.
  • The OSU administration has met with farmworkers, who have explained in their own words why Wendy’s Code of Conduct has no real mechanisms to ensure their rights, compared to the Fair Food Program, and yet OSU remains unconvinced.
  • Students are not satisfied with the actions of Wendy’s or the OSU administration. Their concerns will not be resolved until Wendy’s joins the Fair Food Program.

What kind of video?  Remember: Short and direct videos that get the message across in a clear and powerful way are the most effective. We are asking for 30-second or minute-long videos.  And feel free to get creative! Consider incorporating props, costumes, or theater in your video.

When you’ve finished recording, post your video to the OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance Facebook page.

Make sure to send in your video in the next few days, and stay tuned for more updates from OSU’s growing campaign in the weeks ahead!

Meanwhile, down by the bay…

This week, the Tampa Bay student fast — a collaborative action among undergraduate and graduate students at the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa, and Eckerd College — hit the ground running after taking up the torch from students at New College of Sarasota and Valencia College.  

Having started the week with 8 committed fasters, the three universities now count 16 students taking part in the rolling fast, and over 30 more students who took part in 24-hour solidarity fasts throughout the week!  Tampa’s popular online culture hub, Creative Loafing, picked up on this week’s rolling fast of Tampa Bay area students in the article, “Tampa Bay area college students are fasting to pressure Wendy’s into joining Fair Food Program“:

Tampa Bay area college students are fasting to pressure Wendy’s into joining Fair Food Program

April 18, 2017
by Kate Bradshaw

The South Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers is engaged in a years-long fight to persuade major food retailers to purchase tomatoes from growers who pay and treat their workers fairly.

They’ve had some major successes: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, WalMart, Whole Foods — all of which now pay a penny more for every pound of tomatoes workers pick and have signed onto CIW’s Fair Food Program, which helps protect workers from abuse.

But, as we wrote about last month, some stubborn retailers remain. At the moment, the coalition’s big target is fast food giant Wendy’s, and members of the group recently debarked from a tour of some eastern states to help spread public awareness of their plight.

Wendy’s, they say, hasn’t budged. […]

[…] “Wendy’s refusal to join a proven solution to farmworker poverty and abuse is unacceptable,” USF student Sarah Zaharako said in a written statement. “We’re fasting to support the Wendy’s boycott and current student campaigns to cut Wendy’s contracts until the fast food holdout joins the Fair Food Program, because consumers have the power to bring Wendy’s to the table. In the end, the struggle for farmworker rights is part of the greater struggle for human rights.”  Read more…

After kicking off their fast on Monday, USF and UT students filled the first half of the week with on-campus tabling and education efforts, engaging and educating hundreds of students in the Wendy’s Boycott and winning commitments from fellow students to fast for a day in solidarity.

A passerby shows support for the Wendy’s Boycott at the University of Tampa
Three fasters at University of South Florida in Tampa displaying their now-famous faster armbands

Their efforts fueled a strong turnout when, on Wednesday evening, students from all three schools as well as supportive clergy from the Tampa region gathered in front of the very Wendy’s at which, just a few weeks ago, nearly 300 Fair Food activists marched during the grand finale of the CIW’s Return to Human Rights Tour.  In a lively protest — with energy undiminished after days of fasting — students, clergy, supportive professors and community members, including one of last week’s student fasters from Valencia College, made a colorful splash during rush hour on one of Tampa’s main thoroughfares. 

No action is complete without a reflection…

The protest and successful manager letter delivery were followed by an inspiring reflection among fasters and supporters on the lawn outside Wendy’s.  In their own words, here are some of the fasters’ observations from the week so far:

Sarah Zaharako: “This experience is so impactful, something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  all the other people on campus committing to the 24-hour fast… we have a class together, Katie [another faster] and I. And almost the entire class is doing a 24 hour fast with us… they were all wearing their little buttons, I was so happy!  Being able to educate others on that and having them align with our views was very humbling.”

Suzanne Young: “I’m inspired and impressed that we were able to come together as this Tampa Bay coalition of universities.  I was happy to be a part of it and meet amazing USF students, and people from UT and Eckerd that I had never met before.  It keeps my spirits up to know that we have this community here and that we’re all coming together to support CIW.”

Samantha May: “When you’re hungry, it’s something you know and it’s not something you can really ignore. That’s been reflective as well, because every time you get that hunger pain, or every time you wake up in the middle of the night, you’re reminded of why this work matters, and why you’re doing it.  And, how important it is that corporations like Wendy’s actually take responsibility for the violations they’re responsible for.”

Among Wednesday’s 24-hour fasters at the reflection following the protest was PhD candidate and public school teacher Megan Flocken, who shared that she’d been educating her high schoolers about the Wendy’s Boycott and their role, as young consumers, in furthering the rights of farmworkers.  The fasting crew was even joined by one of the fasters’ high school-aged sisters who was visiting for the week.  Having witnessed her sister’s commitment, the young woman — freshly enrolled to attend St. Lawrence University in the fall — decided to fast alongside her sister for two days to finish off the week!

Bringing it home, CIW’s Leonel Perez (below) linked students’ actions directly to the on-the-ground changes workers are experiencing on Fair Food Program farms today:

“Our community in Immokalee knows about the fasts that are taking place.  In the past few weeks, when we go to the fields to educate workers about their rights as a part of the Fair Food Program, that’s one of the things we open with: We’re not alone.  There are students fasting, students protesting, students flyering and delivering letters.  With your support, tens of thousands of workers now live with respect in the workplace.  And in just a few weeks, workers will move to other states, and their rights will travel with them under the expanding Fair Food Program.” 

To conclude, we want to take a moment to proudly honor the students fasting for farmworker justice in the Tampa Bay region!  Here is the full — and ever-growing — list of these courageous young allies:
University of South Florida
  • Samantha May, undergraduate Political Science and International Studies, Class of 2017
  • Katie Shrum, undergraduate Women and Gender Studies major, Class of 2017
  • Sarah Zaharako, undergraduate Women and Gender Studies major, Class of 2019
  • Blanca Flores, undergraduate Math Education major, Class of 2018
  • Suzanne Young, PhD student in Integrative Biology, Class of 2017
  • Jaime Sykes, Master’s student in the Department of Anthropology, Class of 2017
University of Tampa
  • Zulema Ramos, undergraduate Philosophy and History major, Class of 2018 (fasting for 5 days)
Eckerd College
  • Holly Rutherford (fasting for 5 days)
  • Madison Brinn
  • Nico Dangond
  • Roberto Ojeda
  • Emily Gutmann
  • Carley Going
  • Joshua Roach
  • Julia Rutherford
  • Niki Bigda

And that’s a wrap for today’s update, with equally inspiring news in the hopper from students in Nashville!  As the rolling fast continues, be sure to check back soon for even more news from the Boot the Braids front, and don’t forget to send in your own video to OSU’s President Drake in the days ahead!