To support the struggle for farm worker rights at college campuses nationwide, the Student-Farmworker Alliance (SFA) has launched the new Boot the Braids web site at bootthebraids.com. The site includes resources for organizing students to hold their universities accountable for the ethical practices of Wendy's restaurants on campus.
"As a millennial, I recognize I'm the target market of the fast food industry," said SFA member Sara Stanger at Wendy's annual shareholder meeting in May. "As a student at OSU, a top-research university that is home to a Wendy's, I'm concerned that Wendy's is continuing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in its supply chain."
The SFA launched Boot the Braids in January to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' effort to persuade Wendy's to make a commitment to require ethical labor practices from its suppliers by joining the CIW's Fair Food Program. "We have launched a national public campaign, in coordination with dozens of other schools around the country, to cut university contracts with Wendy's and end our universities' complicity in Wendy's disregard for farm worker rights," Stanger said.
The Florida farm workers who harvest the tomatoes served by fast food restaurants have endured stagnant wages and inhumane working conditions for decades. Corporations who join the Fair Food Program commit to pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes, to be added to the paychecks of the workers who harvest them. They also commit to sourcing their tomatoes only from suppliers who adhere to a code of conduct that includes safe working conditions, fair treatment of workers, and zero tolerance for sexual harassment and forced labor.
Of the five largest U.S. fast food corporations, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Subway, and Burger King have joined the Fair Food Program. Wendy's has not.
In the Boot the Braids campaign, students persuade university officials to cancel contracts with Wendy's stores on campus until the food chain makes a verifiable commitment to require ethical labor practices from its suppliers.
"How much would a penny a pound matter to the millionaires of Wendy's to pay to the tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida?" said CIW supporter Tim Chavez in Columbus, Ohio. "To the farm workers it means the difference between living in substandard housing or a decent apartment. It means dressing your children in decent clothing with lunch money for school.
"The shareholders would benefit by demonstrating that they care about the workers who pick their tomatoes, and the CEO will still have his bonus and his six or seven figure salary," Chavez said. "To the farm worker it means a lot and shareholders will only benefit."