Dozens of farmworkers, students, allies and community leaders gathered to rally outside of Wendy’s on Carpenter Street Saturday, March 9.
The “4 for Fair Food Tour” has embarked its third-year and thousands of students have abstained from dining at Wendy’s until it takes meaningful action to end sexual violence and forced labor in U.S. Agriculture.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) based out of Immokalee, Florida is an internationally recognized human rights organization for its achievements in the fields of social responsibility, human-trafficking, community organizing and gender-based violence.
CIW has decided from March 2-14, it will be going on a “4 for Fair Food Tour.” On this tour, CIW is requesting the presence of students and local community members to end their relationships with Wendy’s until it decides to join the Fair Food Program(FFP.)
Immokalee farm workers including their children marched in the cold, rainy snow mix to show their dedication in boycotting. Students from U-M and EMU decided to show their allyship by holding signs and chanting sayings such as “Up, Up with the Fair Food Nation, Down, Down with Exploitation” repeatedly.
As the march continued, participants received positive feedback with honks and cheers from cars passing by. Patrons in their cars pulled in and out of Wendy’s hesitant but also questioning the purpose of the rally while the Washtenaw County Police monitored nearby.
The Echo was not able to get comments from the Immokalee farm workers themselves due to language barriers.
FFP launched in 2011. FFP is a human rights workplace monitoring program that guarantees basic human rights for farm workers in the field. Human rights such as access to a drink of water on the job, access to bathroom breaks and freedom to work without fear of sexual assault.
“All major fast food corporations except for Wendy’s have signed onto the Fair Food Program,” Maria Solis Kennedy said. “CIW has a national boycott against Wendy’s right now until Wendy’s agrees to protect farm worker human rights by joining the Fair Food Program.”
FFP ensures workers’ human rights are protected and have increased wages, growers have a more stable workplace and retailers are able to protect their brand by participating in a program that eliminates a risky environment.
Maria Solis Kennedy works alongside the CIW and directed the Echo to speak to Matt Hoostal with Washtenaw Solidarity with Farmworkers and Gerardo Reyes Chavez, key leader of CIW and member of the board of directors for Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC).
Washtenaw Solidarity with Farmworkers is a local organization based in Washtenaw County with the concentration on advocating for farmworkers, racial justice, immigrant rights and putting an end to wage theft and labor exploitation.
Hoostal got involved over the past year. Growing up in a factory town and seeing the impact on local workers got him interested.
“I’ve seen factory jobs that were union and factory jobs that were not union,” Hoostal said. “Differences in wages, how people are treated and dignity that people work with. Unionizing and organizing always benefits workers.”
On this “4 for Fair Food Tour,” CIW planned to visit a few major colleges such as University of North Carolina, Ohio State University, University of Michigan and University of Florida. Visiting these four schools and putting pressure on these institutions sends the message that “Until human rights are on the menu, you cannot sell your food on our campus.”
Gerardo Reyes Chavez is a farmworker himself and has worked in the fields since the age of 11, first as a peasant farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico and in the fields of Florida. Chavez knows first-hand how it feels to be treated unequally and has decided to take a stand as a key leader.
“If we feed the country, we deserve to be able to also provide food for our kids in a dignified way and that can only be accomplished when consumers decide to stand up with us, and they should because I think it's the responsibility of everyone to be able to do this,” Chavez said.
Consumers not just in Michigan but nationwide have a call to action.
“First step is to boycott Wendy’s, not just to stop eating,” Chavez said. “But, let local Wendy’s restaurants know why.”
“Stand in solidarity with us, print the letter on our website, ciw-online.org and deliver it to the local resturants,” Chavez said. “They have to send that to the corporations, they are monitoring all of this. This brings the message that it's not ok to exploit people. It's time for them to do what’s necessary.”
For more information about the “4 For Fair Food tour,” follow the hashtag #BootTheBraids or for more information about the organization and its next campaigns. Visit CIW’s website at ciw-online.org or follow the organization on social media at @ciw on Twitter and CIWonFB on Facebook.
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