Five students at New College of Florida in Sarasota are giving up food for part of this week to show solidarity with migrant farmworkers; Third-year social sciences student Alex Schelle is doing it in part to call attention to a boycott by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers against the Wendy’s fast-food chain.
Another student, Ximena Pedroza, is a second-year anthropology student who is also participating in the rolling fast.
They’re helping to organize a protest Friday at the Wendy’s at 1601 South Tamiami Trail (U.S. Hwy. 41) in Sarasota.
Alex: “I’m fasting in the continuation of the seven-day fast at Ohio State University. This is also a strategy that the Coalition of Immokalee workers and separately the Student Farmworker Alliance has used for many years. Each person who fasts does it out of their own volition.
“We are calling on Wendy’s to pay attention to what they’re denying the abuses in their supply chain. The Fair Food Program that is already made and already proven successful, that all they have to do is join.
“When Ohio State University students fasted for 7 days to cut their contract with Wendy’s at their school, we decided that we could support them, because we also went up their to Columbus to be with them as they were doing that. We realized that we have the power to do the same thing, here at New College and send letters to Ohio State University and also to bring attention to Wendy’s Corporation that it’s high time that they join the program.”
Ximena: “The reason why I’m fasting is just to stand in solidarity with Ohio State students as they fight with their administration and their whole school to try to get Wendy’s off their campus, but, also to stand in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee workers and all of the work that they have been doing for over 20-years in getting farm workers the basic human rights that they deserve and getting them that wage increase based on the price premium. So, not just standing in solidarity with the student to students support, but, also student to CIAW support.
“We are also fasting to bring awareness to the fact that Wendy’s has an empty code of conduct. The code of conduct that they so-called have put out for the media and marketing is not a very truthful one. It’s not at all in comparison to the code of conduct that the Fair Food Program has installed for all of the corporations that have signed on to the program.”
Alex: “Continuing that: because Wendy’s made this code of conduct, what they actually did, they recently came out with a statement that there are 3rd-party auditing of the farms to make sure that people are supposedly in compliance with their code of conduct, but, there’s actually no transparency about who that party is or how they monitor the farms. And also there’s no commitment that they will stop buying from those farms if they are proven to violate their code of conduct. So, it’s effectively worthless because it doesn’t actually lead to any changes in how they supply their produce and how they treat their workers. So, they might as well just continue buying from those farms even if they’ve been proven to be in violation.
“Also, it’s not worker-informed. So, the people who are actually experiencing these abuses are the ones who inform the Fair Food program, which is why there’s an affect in what the CIAW is pushing for because no workers are informing Wendy’s code of conduct. It isn’t guaranteed to address any of the concerns that workers have nor is there any evidence that there’s a 24-hour hotline, which is what the Fair Food program gives workers for workers to complain without fear of being fired and bring to light these abuses that they state. Without these it’s not powerful and it does not actually change anything that Wendy’s is doing.”
Let me ask you both about what the fast looks like right now. You’re having what’s called a “rolling 5-day fast”, so tell me what that is. And also you have an encampment on the campus?
Alex: “When we talk about ‘rolling student fast’, we’re talking about continuing the fasts that are going on at other universities and continuing to take turns fasting, whether it’s every day or just in continuation until Wendy’s joins the Fair Food Program. And also, if that’s not happening soon enough, until OSU cuts their contract with Wendy’s.
“Next week, students from 3 universities in Tampa will also be doing a multiple day fast. We’re going to continue these efforts to show that we’re not stepping aside, we’re still paying attention, and we’ll keep paying attention until Wendy’s joins.”
And the encampment?
Ximena: “The encampment is actually in the middle of our campus, on a piece of grass that we call “Z-Green” which is on the residential side of campus, where we not only have sleeping and camping tents where we sleep, but, we also have a bigger tent where we have all the resources and materials that anybody that wants to get involved or wants to get more research and get educated about what the CIAW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) does and how this is a second boycott that the coalition has called to, they can bring, they can come, they can also get involved with all of the week of actions that we have going on this week. That is kind of why we are doing this. We are also holding this space for people to feel free to come by and ask us any questions. We’ve had many people come by and ask us questions as to ‘Why boycott Wendy’s and why not change the way that we’re doing it?’ And we answer them: because this is not only just a week of action to boycott Wendy’s, it’s also a week of action to educate our community and New College and in the surrounding areas.”
And the week of action ends with a big protest at Wendy’s on Friday. Where and when is that?
Alex: “1601 S. Tamiami Trail.”
Ximena: “It’s the Wendy’s on 41 and the picketing and protest is going to begin at 6:00pm. We’re also gonna have the coalition come up with us and the coalition will be here protesting alongside of us as well as many students that have signed up, committed to go to the protest.”
It sounds like your concerned about a Wendy’s that was going to open up at Ohio State, but, there’s nothing considered for New College, right?
Alex: “Actually there already is a Wendy’s at Ohio State University, that they’re currently working to cut the contract with. What we’re doing at NewCollege, is we will be speaking with our President to see– actually he already signed a, not a boycott pledge, but, a fasting pledge that he’s fasting in solidarity with the OSU–with the Braves–campaign. While we’re a small campus and we don’t have a Wendy’s on campus–we never intend to–unless of course they join the Fair Food program, but, until then we’re showing that students all the way in Florida care about this. Hopefully it will bring attention to President Drake, because even though we don’t go to Ohio State, we feel that cutting that contract would be a huge win for this movement and would send a clear message to Wendy’s corporation that this is not something that students want, nor community members, nor people of faith. That this is something that consumers across the board care about. As fellow students, we felt that we were in a position to show solidarity with that effort to cut that contract.”
So the president is fasting at some point during this week and has agreed that there won’t be a Wendy’s on the campus until they join the Fair Food program? Do I have that right?
Alex: “We’re waiting to get that in writing, but, he has agreed to fast in solidarity one day this week. We got that signed by him yesterday.”