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Why are students protesting Wendy's?

Students practice chants in the quad before the protest Monday.
Students practice chants in the quad before the protest Monday.

Carolina Advocating for Gender Equity and Students United for Immigrant Equality co-hosted the “Boot the Braids” Wendy's protest on campus Monday. The protest stemmed from the fast food chain's refusal to join the Fair Food Program. 

The march from Polk Place to Wendy’s in the bottom of the Student Union took place from noon to 1 p.m., and started at the “Harvest Without Violence” outdoor exhibit set up by Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

The exhibit was on Polk Place Monday and in front of the Campus Y Thursday and Friday.  

“The exhibit highlights the long hidden history of sexual violence in agriculture,” Yaissy Solis, spokesperson for Student/Farmworker Alliance said. “It also highlights the solutions that have been created to eliminate situations of violence, of wage theft, of modern day slavery and of course of sexual violence and assault for farmworkers in this country and how it’s expanding to other industries as well.”

One of the solutions the exhibit highlights is the Fair Food Program, a program created by the CIW. Solis said corporations who participate in the program sign a document pledging to only buy from farms that uphold certain codes of conduct established by farmworkers and to cut their purchases if the farms violate those policies.

“That’s what makes the fair food program unique,” Solis said. “Farmworkers have a voice, they are able to establish codes of conduct at the farms where they work and they have the backing of the market which is of course the corporations agreeing to help uphold these human rights in the fields.”

Solis said Chancellor Carol Folt visited the exhibit and supports the movement. Attempts to contact the chancellor's office were unsuccessful at the time of publication.

Wendy’s is the only major fast food chain to not participate in the Fair Food Program, Solis said. UNC sophomore and protest organizer Mia Shang said the first step is making students aware of the problem. 

“I think UNC has a real chance to act as a leader nationwide in booting the braids from campus and seeing other campuses follow in our footsteps which can bring some serious attention to the issue,” Shang said. “Wendy’s is really going to take notice when they realize they are being kicked off campuses nationwide.”

Gaby Aleman, a junior who attended the protest, said the demonstration and exhibit were important for raising student awareness of the issue.

“Obviously it’s hard to stay up-to-date on everything that’s going on, and because we have a Wendy’s on campus and it’s actually pretty lucrative. It’s important that people know that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes in terms of what we eat,” she said. “People need to be shocked. People need to be listening to what is going on.”

Solis said education is a major goal of the exhibit, and many students who have viewed the exhibit have been shocked.

“They’re shocked that women work in agriculture, and they’re sexually harassed, and there’s no consequences for it,” she said. “They’re shocked to know there’s exploitation on the farms where their food is being grown and harvested.”

UNC interim auxiliary services director Scott Myers said in a statement the University and the Carolina Dining Services Student Dining Board work with Aramark to contract vendors like Wendy’s.

“After input from the student body and approval from the Student Union Board of Directors and the Student Dining Board, UNC-Chapel Hill opened Wendy’s on campus,” he said. “We continue to work closely with Aramark and representatives from Wendy’s to address student concerns.”

Solis said the “Harvest Without Violence” campaign started by female farmworkers relates to the sexual violence that has been in the news recently.

“The campaign is calling for an immediate end to that,” she said. “Farmworkers are saying ‘me too’ essentially, and Wendy’s is saying ‘that’s too bad.’”


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