Ethical farming advocacy groups protest Wendy's outside of the Union

Monday, October 10, 2016 - 7:41pm

Approximately ten members of the Ann Arbor Solidarity with Farmworkers Collective and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers gathered outside the Michigan Union Monday evening to protest Wendy’s for their purchasing choices.

A2SFC is a local organization advocating for farmworkers, racial justice, immigrant rights and bringing an end to wage theft and labor exploitation. For the past year and a half, A2SFC has been working with the National Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-led human rights organization based in Immokalee, Fla., to raise awareness of CIW’s Fair Food Program.

The Fair Food Program is a partnership between farmers and retail food companies that aims to guarantee humane wages and working conditions for fruit and vegetable farmers. While Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King have joined the Fair Food Program; Wendy’s is one of the few major fast food chain that has not.

Over the past two weeks, members of the CIW have been touring the Midwest, leading demonstrations similar to the one Monday evening. Oscar Otzoy, a member of CIW and farmer in Immokalee, Fla., was present at Monday’s protest and said students’ involvement is important in the movement because of their power as consumers.

“We’re here in Michigan; we’ve been in different parts of Ohio and also Kentucky, all to bring this message and to connect with students and people in different communities about how they can be part of this solution that’s changing the lives of so many farmers,” Otzoy said.

The Union Wendy's did not reply to request for comment.

Otzoy urged University of Michigan students to get involved with A2SFC. He said students can attend A2SFC’s weekly meetings and sign their local petition to urge the University to end its contract with Wendy’s.

Rackham student Ariana Hall joined A2SFC after hearing about it from a fellow Rackham student Kim Daley, an A2SFC co-founder.

“I think it’s important to know where your food is coming from and who’s doing that work and make sure we’re supporting all those people,” Hall said.

Daley and Drew Nowak, an A2SFC co-founder, said they have reached out to the Union to see if they will reconsider doing business with Wendy’s.

“I recently contacted the administrator of the Union to ask to meet with her and we haven’t made the ask yet, to ask if the University would reconsider doing business with Wendy’s because we wanted to make sure that students on campus supported it,” Daley said.

When the Fair Food Program was implemented in Florida, instead of joining the program, Nowak said Wendy’s, moved all tomato sourcing to Mexico from the United States, specifically to farms known for poor labor practices. According to Nowak, this is a clear violation of the University’s contract with Wendy’s.

“We have copies of Wendy’s’ contract with the Union and the University of Michigan’s code of conduct for vendors, and there is a clause in there that says none of the Michigan vendors can source their materials from places who have been known to use forced labor,” Nowak said.

Daley said a representative from the Union is willing to meet with A2SFC to discuss Wendy’s’ possible violation of the contract. A representative from the Union was unavailable for comment at the time of this article.