Correction: A previous headline stated that Wendy’s will not renew its contract with the Michigan Union following activists’concerns. This Wendy’s location is independently franchised and the contract expired when Union construction began. A decision was made by the franchise owner not to renew. This article and headline have been updated to reflect this.
After its contract expired due to the Michigan Union’s construction, Wendy’s will not have a location in the new Michigan Union when it opens in 2020. University of Michigan student leaders and community members raised concern after the fast food chain failed to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program.
Central Student Government, Ann Arbor City Council and the Michigan Union Board of Representatives all signed resolutions encouraging the University to prohibit Wendy’s from leasing a spot in University property until they join the Fair Food Program, with City Council additionally encouraging individuals and institutions in the Ann Arbor community to boycott the chain.
The Fair Food Program is a partnership between farmers, farmworkers and retail food companies that seeks higher wages and better working conditions for those in participating farms. Fourteen companies have signed on, including large grocery distributors such as Walmart and Whole Foods Market and fast food chains such as Burger King, McDonald’s and Subway.
While the resolutions discussed by CSG, City Council and MUBP are significant, the University has not officially commented on the situation and could still offer Wendy’s a vendor spot. In order for a restaurant to be considered for the vendor spot, the University must first extend a bid to the restaurant.
In recent reports, Heidi Schauer, Wendy’s director of corporate communications, has said that the franchise previously at the Union did not submit a bid. However, it is unclear if the University even invited them to do so.
According to Kim Daley, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Public Health and student-activist, it’s still possible the University will accept a bid from Wendy’s, if a different Wendy’s franchise was invited to submit a bid. However, it is impossible for activists to know as the procurement process is secret.
Daley, along with the Washtenaw Solidarity for Farmworkers, will speak at the University’s Board of Regents meeting on Thurs., Feb. 21 to encourage the University to officially prohibit Wendy’s from procuring a vendor spot until the franchise adheres to the Fair Food Program.
“We’re very excited and we do think this is a win, but we also want the president and the regents specifically to still make a stand and show that the University as a whole cares about ethical labor practices,” Daley said.