500+ march on Wendy’s in NYC: “The longer they hold out, the stronger we become!”

From university halls to City Hall, over 500 farmworkers and consumers come together in New York’s streets demanding to know “What are you hiding, Wendy’s?” with day-long protest, march!

PLUS: Comic and actor Amy Schumer visits protesters to lend support to farmworkers and their families fighting for justice; and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders endorses Wendy’s Boycott!

AND: New York City Council introduces resolution calling on Wendy’s to join award-winning Fair Food Program!

In the early hours of Monday morning, over 70 farmworkers, their families, and allies gathered in front of the offices of Trian Partners, Wendy’s largest institutional shareholder, in the gray streets of New York City, for the beginning of what would be a truly remarkable day.

500+ farmworkers and supporters marched through Manhattan on Monday evening, demanding transparency and a real commitment to farmworkers’ human rights from Wendy’s.

From a visit from world-famous comic/actor/activist Amy Schumer, to a powerful march of over 500 farmworkers and their supporters (despite a persistent evening rainstorm!), to a surprise boycott endorsement by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Twitter, the CIW’s day-long action reverberated in the fabled streets of Manhattan and across the country to millions of supporters.  The message was unmistakable: Wendy’s assurances that working conditions are fine in their greenhouse suppliers’ operations are not holding up against the hard evidence of harsh conditions faced by workers in greenhouses, not to mention the well-documented failures of the superficial auditing companies tasked with protecting workers from widespread labor and safety violations.  And neither farmworkers nor consumers are buying it. 

That’s why on Monday, hundreds of consumers joined farmworker leaders in asking the obvious question:  If there truly are no human rights violations occurring in Wendy’s suppliers’ operations, why not meet its competitors’ challenge and join the FFP, the most comprehensive, most widely-respected human rights program in agriculture?

Today, we bring you a video and an extensive photo report from the day-long protest in front of Trian Partners and the massive march through the heart of Manhattan.  For those of you who couldn’t join us there, we hope this gives you a sense of all the color, consciousness, and commitment on display in the Big Apple this past Monday!

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After settling into the protest site with art, flyers, and some hot coffee (following a good night’s rest at Riverside Church, which as always opened its doors to farmworker families to stay), farmworkers and supporters spent the morning chanting and flyering.  The young but seasoned flyering and chant team – many of whom had flyered and sung on this very block for many hours during the 2018 Freedom Fast as their parents went without food for five, long days – made sure that the hundreds of passersby got the message about the Wendy’s Boycott:

Farmworkers were also visited by local leaders with the Model Alliance, a rising force for fairness in the fashion industry who have been fighting to bring respect, dignity, and safety to fashion workplaces across the country through their RESPECT Program.  Sara Ziff, the Model Alliance’s Executive Director, and model Ava Smith cheered on the protesters, and spoke beautifully of the connections between the rural fields of Florida and the sleek fashion studios of New York:

Sara Ziff (left) and Ava Smith (center) with the Model Alliance address farmworkers and their supporters with a message of solidarity.

Sara Ziff: “Like many models, when I was 14, I entered what I thought was a glamorous industry. What I found was an unregulated industry where vulnerable children are susceptible to abuse.

Recent news that Jeffery Epstein used his connections to Victoria’s Secret to traffic young girls is shocking. Unfortunately the access Epstein was granted to young girls is a feature of the modeling industry, not a bug. Despite the industry’s image, modeling is work that too often delivers debt, sexual abuse, and trafficking…

That’s why I and other models developed the RESPECT Program. We want to bring accountability to brands, agencies, and individuals who have enabled a system rife with exploitation. This is a huge, global industry and it needs standards and rules. Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work.

We’ve been inspired by the Fair Food Program and by CIW’s work. Although models and farmworkers work under different socioeconomic conditions, I believe we have more in common than many people would think.

In the fashion industry, we have also seen companies introduce codes of conduct that lack teeth and transparency. It’s not enough. Like you, we are calling on companies to work with us to create meaningful and lasting change.

No matter which industry you work in, the fear of speaking out is very real. So thank you for being here. Thank you for speaking out. I stand in solidarity with you. You are an inspiration to so many and you are leading this effort not just for farmworkers, but also for women across industries.

Just a few hours later, farmworkers and their supporters got a surprise visit from none other than comic and actor Amy Schumer, who has long been outspoken in her support for farmworkers’ struggle to end sexual violence in the fields, standing strong with farmworkers in demanding that Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program. 

Amy Schumer (center, red scarf) joins farmworkers and their families for a group photo.

And that wasn’t the only unexpected boost of the day!  Not only did Amy’s support for the Wendy’s Boycott ripple across social media (and her millions of followers on Instagram), but also a certain U.S. Senator – who has long supported the movement for Fair Food – weighed in, bringing the Wendy’s Boycott to nearly ten million more consumers across the country:

As the day went on, buses and vans began arriving to Manhattan, and out poured allies from across the Northeast who had traveled down to the Big Apple to join farmworkers for the protest. Riding high from the energy boost of the growing crowd, the group gathered in the mid-afternoon for a beautiful reflection on the incredible changes that have been won through the Fair Food Program – changes that both farmworkers and consumers are ready to fight to protect, no matter how many long bus rides, protests, or marches it takes.

The reflection was opened by CIW’s own Nely Rodriguez and Silvia Perez, who spoke of the long struggle of farmworker women in particular in the fight to end sexual harassment in the fields.  With a table before them – and an empty chair set for the day that Wendy’s chooses to sit down with farmworkers – they described the symbolic objects on the table, from the bandana marking the end of farmworker women’s silence to the telephone representing the 24-hour Fair Food Program hotline that provides workers with a confidential way to report and resolve abuse.

They were joined by steadfast faith leaders, Miguel Estrada, a pastor at Evangelist Mision Peniel in Immokalee, and Julie Taylor of the National Farmworker Ministry – both of whom have spent countless days marching, fasting, and standing shoulder to shoulder with workers from Immokalee over many years – who spoke of the commitment of consumers to stand with farmworkers to create a more just food system.

Julie Taylor, Executive Director of the National Farm Worker Ministry

And finally, on behalf of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, Brown University senior Nico Page addressed the crowd, speaking to the interconnection between different struggles for justice and the longstanding support of students and youth in the Fair Food movement:

Nico Page (center)

With their hearts overflowing with inspiration, the growing crowd turned to the task of preparing artwork for the impending march at 5pm.  As more and more New Yorkers and supporters from across the Northeast filled the street, the CIW’s Oscar Otzoy introduced none other than Mark Levine (below), a New York City Councilmember, to address the crowd with some very exciting news. Councilmember Levine announced that the City Council – following in the footsteps of the cities of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Carrboro, North Carolina, and Gainesville, Florida – had introduced a resolution demanding that Wendy’s live up to the values of New York City and join the Fair Food Program!

Still cheering from the news of the Big Apple’s support for the Wendy’s Boycott, the crowd of over 500 took off down Park Avenue.  The two-mile march filled the streets with chants and cheers, with marchers’ spirits undampened by the rain.  For this, the photos speak for themselves:

The vibrant march brought together a tremendously diverse range of allies, including farmworker leaders of Migrant Justice, Workmen’s Circle NYC, Cosecha NYC, Fare Collective NYU, Hunter College SFA, congregants of Judson Memorial Church, the interfaith community of Stony Point Center, Columbia’s Student-Worker Solidarity, New York City Central Labor Council and affiliated unions, Reconstructionist Synagogue Bnai Keshet, Congregation Kolot Chayeinu, Park Avenue Christian Church, St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church, Riverside Church, MACC, Sunrise Movement NYC, Free CUNY, and T’ruah, among many, many others. 

Back in front of Trian, beneath a light shower of rain, a powerful line up of supporters – from young leaders with the SFA and faith leaders from across a broad spectrum of traditions to domestic workers and, of course, farmworker leaders from CIW – closed out the night with rousing speeches. The speakers, whose words lit up the crowd, included Christine Lewis, Secretary of Domestic Workers United; Student/Farmworker Alliance Steering Committee members Alexis Fisher, Gold Carson, Nora Lawrence, and Nico Page; Imam Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes; Rev. Kaji Douša, Senior Pastor at Park Avenue Christian Church; Rev. Michael Livingston, Executive Minister at The Riverside Church; Ann Toback, Executive Director, and Ben Ro, a teen leader of The Workmen’s Circle.

We’ll leave the last word to SFA’s Lexie Fisher (pictured above), who captured the crowd’s determined and inspired spirit with her rousing words: “Here in New York, from University halls to City Hall, we’re putting Wendy’s on notice: the longer that they hold out, the stronger that we become!”

CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo put the strength of the Fair Food Nation on full display for Wendy’s leadership at Trian Partners through a final, echoing chant to close out the action.