Students, farmworkers and activists for workers’ rights marched through campus to the beat of guitar music and “boycott Wendy’s” chants Monday to protest the fast food restaurant’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program.
The Fair Food Program, started by the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, is a partnership among farmers, farmworkers and retail food companies to ensure humane wages and working conditions for farmworkers working for the large food companies.
Students at UNC worked alongside members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Student Action with Farmworkers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance to plan the march, which was part of a movement stretching from Ohio to Florida.
“Eighty percent of our food is handpicked,” Rosemary Stump, a graduate student at UNC who helped organize the march, said. “They are real human beings, mostly brown people, who have none of the labor rights we have.”
The Fair Food Program includes a code of conduct for corporations, protecting workers from abuse in the fields and giving them a system for filing grievances and improving their working conditions.
“Thanks to the Fair Food Program, the (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) has been able to bring fair wages to our workplaces,” Lupe Gonzalo, a farmworker who currently works picking tomatoes, said. “As a worker I feel we have more rights on the job, and as a woman worker in particular, I feel like I have more dignity now in my workplace to work the way I want and to file any harassment claims.”
The Fair Food Program also calls for a “one more cent” initiative, in which farmworkers are paid one more cent for every tomato they pick, which could double the farmworkers wages and move them from below the poverty line.
“That’s what we’re asking Wendy’s,” Ramon Zepeda, program director for Student Action with Farmworkers, said. “But they have said no. They don’t want to participate and sign the program, but they still depend on farmworkers and ask them to pick their tomatoes to sell their products.”
The Fair Food Program has been implemented by other fast food restaurants such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King. Protestors are hoping the nationwide marches and boycotts will put pressure on Wendy's to join the program.
“Wendy’s is a corporation that continues to take advantage of worker poverty,” Gonzalo said. “We have many workers who are already under the program and protected by it, but there are also many other workers who are not protected by it. So if Wendy’s would sign the program, that would expand the program and would allow more men and women workers to have dignity in their workplaces.”
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