CORRECTION: An ealier version of this article incorrectly stated that the University ofMichigan decided to cut ties with Wendy’s after pressure from student groups has energized the alliance. The franchisee’s lease expired when the school remodeled the building in which the restaurant was housed, and they did not pursue a bid for a new lease. The franchisee never had plans to return to UM or renew a lease. The story has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
While Wendy’s may serve Frostys, Baconators and spicy chicken strips, activists gathered Tuesday to protest the lack of human rights on the fast-food giant’s menu.
Student activists, farmworkers and community members marched from the Southern Centurion Post Oak Tree in Carrboro to the Wendy’s in the Student Union, calling on UNC to cut business ties with Wendy’s until the restaurant joins the Fair Food Program, a pro-workers’ rights group.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a Florida-based human rights organization, and the UNC Student-Farmworker Alliance hosted the march. The event was the second protest against Wendy’s on UNC’s campus in the last six months, following a smaller demonstration held in October 2018.
Tuesday's event began on Weaver Street in Carrboro, where demonstrators congregated and began marching toward UNC's campus. The march moved down Franklin Street, through McCorkle Place and circled the on-campus Wendy’s.
Demonstrators blasted upbeat music and chanted slogans such as “Wendy’s, shame on you. Farmworkers are people too.”
After a brief picket outside of Wendy’s, the march ended with a series of speakers on the steps of South Building. Each speech was given in Spanish and English. Speakers included Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, student leaders, local activists and religious leaders.
The speakers highlighted Wendy’s refusal to adopt the Fair Food Program while their competitors have agreed to the Coalition's terms.
“They brought Burger King to the table, they brought McDonald’s to the table, they brought Long John Silver’s to the table, they brought Taco Bell to the table, Whole Foods, Walmart, and many, many more. Today is the day for Wendy’s to come to the table,” Kennedy said.
The march officially launched the 13-day 4 Fair Food Tour, a nationwide campaign spearheaded by the Coalition, focused on supporting campus-based campaigns at four different universities. The 4 Fair Food Tour will also travel to support the efforts of Ohio State University, University of Florida and University of Michigan in their fight for improved farmworkers’ rights in the Wendy’s supply chain.
“You want to know that the food you eat is free from exploitation and it’s free from sexual assault, and that it’s free from these things not just on your campus’ Wendy’s but on all the Wendy’s. You want to be sure that the food you eat is fair,” said Coalition staff member Julia de la Cruz. Maria Solis Kennedy with the Alliance for Fair Food translated for de la Cruz.
The Coalition launched the Fair Food Program in 2011, which has since received the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking in 2015.
The program works to ensure humane wages and working conditions for farmworkers through agreements with retail food companies. It also seeks to empower workers through labor rights education. Since the program’s founding, over 220,000 workers have received “Know Your Rights” materials.
Prior to the march, UNC said they ensure the use of responsibly sourced tomatoes, one of the key points of contention for the demonstrators.
“In 2017, following student concerns, the University worked with Wendy’s to ensure all of their tomatoes for UNC-Chapel Hill would be purchased through the Aramark supply chain, thereby ensuring they are responsibly sourced under the provisions of Aramark’s agreement with the CIW,” their statement said.
The march followed Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen’s unanimous vote to pass a resolution in support of farmworkers’ rights last week. The resolution urges Wendy’s to join the FFP.
For Narivi Roblero, a first-year exercise and sport science major and member of the UNC Student-Farmworker Alliance, her dad’s experience working as a tomato farmer in Immokalee, Florida inspired her to get involved.
“Students are very powerful, it can happen, it’s not just like a far-fetched dream that we have,” she said.
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