Students, community members and farmworkers marched from the South Building to the Wendy’s in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union Thursday, demanding that campus officials cut ties with the restaurant due to its refusal to adopt the pro-workers’ rights Fair Food Program.
The afternoon's event began around noon with a brief theatrical performance and ended 45 minutes later with chanting, marching and picketing just outside of Wendy's.
The demonstration was organized by the UNC Student/Farmworker Alliance, which has called for the chain to sign onto the Fair Food Program since March of last year. Chapter leader Marco Chumbimuni performed in the initial skit. On the steps of South Building, the location of Chancellor Carol Folt’s office, he criticized another actor portraying the chancellor for allowing the chain to maintain its presence on campus.
"Wendy's is not what you want on campus,” Chumbimuni said. "You say you're 'For All.' Why don't you show us that? Tell Wendy's that you're not welcome. Join us, your own students."
"I see what you're saying, and I love how supportive you are of farmworkers' rights in our community,” the other actor said, holding a large bag of money given to her by an actor dressed as the Wendy's mascot. “But there's really nothing more that I can do. My hands are tied."
The skit concluded soon after, with demonstrators grabbing signs with slogans like “Boycott Wendy’s” and “Hey Folt: Support Human Rights Now” before marching toward the on-campus Wendy’s. Once there, participants continued to picket outside the restaurant’s door, occasionally giving statements through a bullhorn.
The demonstration was scheduled during a class change in order to maximize exposure, Alliance leader and UNC junior Mia Shang said. The Workers Union at UNC and the Campus Y were also present. An individual from Campus Y read a statement of solidarity during a stop in the Pit.
"I think we had a great turnout," Shang said. "What's really important is that we were able to have this big show through campus to really get people's attention.”
Eric Sugarman, a senior environmental studies major, passed out pamphlets to onlookers as the demonstrators marched through Polk Place and the Pit. Like many participants, he said sustainably-sourced food is an easy cause to rally behind.