To wrap up a month of action in April, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) took to the sidewalks in front of a Sarasota Wendy’s to drive the message home: join the Fair Food Program or feel the burn of a national boycott.
“Farmworkers and their families from Immokalee joined allies from Sarasota – students, people of faith and folks from various organizations around the city – to boycott Wendy’s,” Patricia Cipollitti from the Alliance for Fair Food said.
April’s “month of outrage” actions and the Sarasota protest, which occurred on May 1, have the common goal of amplifying the pressure on Wendy’s to sign onto the CIW’s Fair Food Program, a program designed for and by farm workers.
“Our goal is to have Wendy’s listen to our message that they need to respect farmworkers’ human rights not just through empty codes of conduct but through real action and real commitment to being part of the solution and thereby joining the Fair Food Program,” Cipollitti said.
The Fair Food Program has ensured human rights in the fields and protection against forced labor, among other progressive changes, simply by bringing major corporations such as Wal-Mart into a regulated relationship with the growers and workers who supply for them.
Wendy’s is the last major fast food company to refuse to sign and support workers’ rights. To pour salt on the wound, a few years ago Wendy’s decided to leave Florida fields to outsource their tomatoes from a farm in Mexico. Bioparques de Occidente (which sells under the brand name Kaliroy) was the subject of a major slavery prosecution in 2013.
These directly disrespectful decisions have made Wendy’s a target for the Coalition and its corresponding branches, the Alliance for Fair Food and the Student Farmworker Alliance. A national boycott of Wendy’s began back in March when the CIW and allies organized the Worker’s Voice Tour, a 10-day protest which marched right up the East Coast.
“I think the protest went really well, they’ve been doing these protests for a while and they’re always really well organized,” second-year Annie Rosenblum said. “After the big action that happened with their whole tour, I think this was a good, local action to happen. It was smaller but it was effective.”
The CIW is keeping up the pressure on Wendy’s throughout the month of May. A series of call-ins will be organized leading up to a national call-in day on May 25, a day before Wendy’s next shareholder meeting is scheduled. Members of the CIW plan to sit in at the meeting and talk to shareholders about how important this movement is for them and urge them to join the program.
At the May 1 protest, a small delegation group went into the Wendy’s off 41 to present the Fair Food Program and its goals and accomplishments. The team was comprised of two CIW members, a member of the Alliance for Fair Food, Rosenblum, and a member of a local church.
“Our goal is to go into the establishment and ask to speak to the manager and present them a letter on behalf of the CIW, kind of explaining why we’re there and why this movement is important to us,” Rosenblum said.
The Sarasota protest occurred on a significant day. The first of May hosts many holidays: one of them is International Workers’ Day – also known as May Day. With a rich history of fighting for workers’ rights (particularly in the face of capitalist exploitation), May Day is a day in celebration and solidarity with workers across the globe.
“There were so many people, nearly 100, and it’s always beautiful when there is presence from Immokalee and the farmworker leadership is really felt in the action,” Cipollitti said.