Why You Should Boycott Wendy's

UNC students and community members protest Wendy’s stance on workers’ rights ( Image )

UNC students and community members protest Wendy’s stance on workers’ rights (Image)


The stickers are just one representation of a nationwide campaign to end unfair labor practices on farms. The movement is sponsored by the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), originating as a group to stand in solidarity with farmworkers. It formed in response to a 230-mile march held by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in February 2000. The workers mobilized in order to protest unfair working conditions, low and unstable wages, sexual harassment, and the general lack of regard for the dignity of farmworkers.

CIW is geographically focused within Florida, but their message resonates with farmworkers around the country. This ubiquitous nature of the values promoted by the movement has allowed it to invoke solidarity among farmworkers and allies (including Kerry Kennedy and the Time’s Up movement) across the country.

While the movement began in Immokalee, Florida with a focus on the tomato supply chain, it has proliferated into multiple spheres over the past two decades. Some notable wins for the group include persuading grocers like Trader Joe’s and Walmart as well as corporations like Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway to sign onto the Fair Food Program (FFP).

The program essentially holds the farms to a code of conduct which includes providing fair pay, a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and regular training for workers informing them of their rights. The latter programming allows them the agency to report misconduct as they see it, hence the description of the program as ”worker-driven” but consumer-powered.

For the past five years, Wendy’s has been targeted by the Student/Farmworker Alliance for refusing, unlike its competitors in the fast food industry, to sign on to the FFP. Recently, the movement gained a victory as the University of Michigan, one of four college campuses being targeted by the campaign, officially banned Wendy’s from its campus until the corporation signs onto the FFP.

UNC’s chapter of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (@UNCCHSFA) has discussed the contract of the Wendy’s location in the Carolina Union with the administration (under Chancellor Folt’s term). Joined by farmworkers in CIW, the campus chapter relayed that they had spoken to Scott Meyers, the Director of Auxiliary Services at UNC, with little success. SFA members Marco Chumbimuni, Mia Shang, and Yaissy Solis expressed their discontent regarding the conversation in a joint statement: “Mr. Myers presented the University's Band-Aid solution to our campaign to boot Wendy's from campus: the fact that Wendy's on campus is operated through Aramark, a signatory of the Fair Food Program. What Mr. Myers failed to acknowledge is the fact that Wendy's brand - and its shady human rights history - remains heavily promoted at UNC.  Our demand remains firm: We want to terminate the association between UNC and a corporation that has unconscionably remained opposed to ensuring verifiable protections for farmworkers in its supply chain.”

According to the SFA, Mr. Meyers cited the cost of leaving a contract with Wendy’s as a major factor in the decision to take no action as well. For Marco and members of the SFA however, this is not an acceptable response. “No investment should be worth more than tying UNC's name to Wendy's, the only major fast food chain that refuses to responsibly address human rights abuses in its supply chain. You cannot put a price on justice, and the UNC community will continue fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with CIW until the women and men that feed the nation can do so with dignity and respect.”

The movement is not about “feeling good about what we eat”, according to Leslie Alanis, another member of UNC’s SFA. The goal is to prevent such an unethical use of university space, money, and resources by a corporation that has ignored the vociferous pleas of human beings demanding respect in their work.

OpinionAva ErfaniComment