New College students launch 5-day fast, win support of college President Donal O’Shea and scores of Florida students pledging to Boycott Wendy’s!

The local Sarasota SNN TV station breaks the news of New College students fasting in support of the Wendy’s Boycott.

Nationwide rolling fast for farmworker justice hits Florida…

Students at New College in Sarasota declare: “I’m fasting to stand in solidarity with Ohio State students as they fight with their administration to get Wendy’s off their campus, and in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and all of the work that they have been doing for over 20 years to get farmworkers the basic human rights that they deserve…”

This week, students at New College of Florida and Valencia College launched a five-day fast in support of the CIW’s Wendy’s Boycott and of their fellow students at Ohio State University, who are demanding that OSU stop doing business with the fast-food giant until Wendy’s joins the Fair Food Program!  

Spearheaded by student leaders of New College’s Students Targeting Oppressive Power (STOP), the action came on the heels of last month’s week-long fast by 19 student and alumni at Ohio State University calling on the OSU administration to honor its promise and terminate its lease with Wendy’s on-campus restaurant.  The OSU students ended their powerful action with a call for solidarity from fellow student leaders across the nation.  

And indeed, the extraordinary energy unleashed at OSU soon rippled out across the country, as last week students at the University of Michigan were first to answer the call for a nationwide rolling fast, followed this week by students on Southwest Florida’s New College campus, who stepped off their own five-day fast on Monday and quickly won the hearts and active support of hundreds of their fellow students — including a pledge to fast for a day in solidarity with their cause by New College president Donal O’Shea himself!

We have a quick photo report and media round-up for you from the first three days of the fast below, and will have have much more from New College on Monday, as the students wrap up their fast with an action at a Wendy’s in Sarasota on Friday and then pass the torch to students on three more colleges in the Tampa area the following week.

Photo Report from New College fast, Days 1-3…

The fasters set up their encampment on the “Z-Green” at the heart of campus and were joined there daily by their fellow students, as well as by workers from Immokalee who visited and shared their experiences in the fields…

Over the first days of the five-day action, the fasters collected hundreds of commitments from New College students and professors to boycott Wendy’s, and over 40 letters for OSU’s President Drake, urging him to heed his students’ call for an end to the institution’s contract with Wendy’s…

The fasters also met with New College’s own president, Donal O’Shea, who sat down with the students and a representative from the Alliance for Fair Food from Immokalee to hear the case for the Wendy’s Boycott, and to learn about the urgent need for academic institutions across the country to take action.

New College President Donal O’Shea

When faced with this simple question from his students — will you align the institution you lead with a pioneering, Presidential Medal-winning human rights program and the farmworkers who built it — New College President Donal O’Shea responded with a resolute and resounding “Yes!”  

“I am very proud of the fast,” President O’Shea added, and committed himself to a day-long fast alongside his students (setting an example of leadership and empathy for the community that he leads that President Drake and his fellow administrators at Ohio State University would do well to follow…).

Throughout the day on Tuesday, Day Two of the fast, students and professors across NCF’s campus joined the President in signing up for Wednesday’s day-long solidarity fast.  After two days of educating fellow students on the challenges faced by farmworkers in the fields, and the concrete changes won through the Fair Food Program,…

… the five intrepid fasters had gained the support of over 85 New College students and professors, all of whom pledged to fast for a day in support of OSU’s Boot the Braids Campaign!  Here are just a few of the people who stepped up to the plate to fast yesterday:

Naturally, the swiftly-spreading action couldn’t be contained to New College’s campus.  Media outlets from the city of Sarasota quickly picked up on the growing movement at New College.  In addition to the piece from local newscasters at SNN (included at the top of the post), WMNF of Tampa and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune caught wind of the fast as it grew over the week and documented the fierce commitment of the New College students to farmworkers’ human rights.

Media Round-up…

First up, here’s an excerpt from the Herald-Tribune article, titled “New College students fast to support tomato pickers,” including details for the culminating action of the week on Friday, where students will break their five-day fast:

New College students fast to support tomato pickers

April 11 by Billy Cox

SARASOTA — Five New College students began a five-day fast Monday in support of a national movement hoping to acquire more humane working conditions for Florida tomato pickers. The effort will culminate Friday with a 6 p.m. protest against the Wendy’s restaurant at 1601 South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

“Wendy’s released a code of conduct that it wants growers to support, but they didn’t really have a mechanism for making sure that happens,” said New College student activist Cassie Manz. “The best way to do that is to join the Fair Food Program, but they haven’t.”

The Fair Food Program is a longstanding initiative by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) that has improved the lives of migrant workers by setting standards for compliant growers to eliminate human-rights abuses such as beatings, sexual harassment, and wage theft. Ninety percent of Florida tomato farms have signed on to the program — which also pays workers a penny-per-pound premium for harvested tomatoes — and retailers from McDonald’s to Wal-Mart have joined that effort.

The New College activists are taking their cue from Ohio State University counterparts, who last month began calling for the university to terminate its contract with Wendy’s. Students, clerics and OSU faculty protested outside Wendy’s headquarters in Dublin, Ohio.

CIW’s Fair Food Program program received the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons in 2014. The watchdog for its implementation — the Fair Food Standards Council — is based in Sarasota.

The CIW began its boycott of Wendy’s in 2016. Publix, Florida’s largest supermarket chain, has also been subjected protests and boycotts for declining to join the Fair Food Program.

Manz said this week’s activism at New College is part of a nationwide collegiate campaign of “rolling fasts” to pressure Wendy’s to change its policy. The students are conducting their on-campus efforts at a camp on Z-Green.

Meanwhile, WMNF featured in-depth interviews with two of the student fasters, Ximena Pedroza and Alex Schelle (the latter of whom, it must be noted, joined the Student/Farmworker Alliance while still in high school!).  Here are just a few of the highlights from the interview, though make sure to head over to the WMNF website to read the full accounts from Ximena and Alex about why they are fasting — and why Wendy’s is simply dead wrong in its approach to protecting the fundamental human rights of farmworkers in its supply chain:

New College of Florida students fasting for farmworkers

When Ohio State University students fasted for 7 days to cut their contract with Wendy’s at their school, we decided that we could support them, because we also went up their to Columbus to be with them as they were doing that. We realized that we have the power to do the same thing, here at New College, to send letters to Ohio State University, and also to bring attention to Wendy’s Corporation to say that it’s high time that they join the program.”

Ximena: “The reason why I’m fasting is to stand in solidarity with Ohio State students as they fight with their administration and their whole school to try to get Wendy’s off their campus, and also to stand in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and all of the work that they have been doing for over 20-years in getting farm workers the basic human rights that they deserve and getting them that wage increase based on the price premium. […]

[…] Alex: “Because Wendy’s… recently came out with a statement that there are 3rd-party auditing of the farms to make sure that people are supposedly in compliance with their code of conduct, but, there’s actually no transparency about who that party is or how they monitor the farms.  And also there’s no commitment that [Wendy’s] will stop buying from those farms if they are proven to violate their code of conduct.  So, it’s effectively worthless because it doesn’t actually lead to any changes in how they supply their produce and how they treat their workers.  So, they might as well just continue buying from those farms even if they’ve been proven to be in violation.

“Also, [Wendy’s code] is not worker-informed.  The people who are actually experiencing these abuses are the ones who inform the Fair Food Program… and no workers are informing Wendy’s code of conduct. It isn’t guaranteed to address any of the concerns that workers have nor is there any evidence that there’s a 24-hour hotline, which is what the Fair Food Program has for workers to complain without fear of being fired and bring to light these abuses that they state.  Without these, [Wendy’s code] is not powerful and it does not actually change anything that Wendy’s is doing…”

Feeling inspired?  Find out how you can support New College fasters by contacting the Student/Farmworker Alliance at organize(at) — and if you’re in Florida, join students and farmworkers from Immokalee for an action and a ceremony to break the students’ fast on Friday at 6PM at the Wendy’s at 1601 S Tamiami Trail in Sarasota!

Stay tuned for a report from the action — and more exciting news from what’s next for the nation’s network of energized students — next week!