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Opposition to Ohio State’s contract with Wendy’s resurfaces

Student members of the Ohio State Student/Farmworker Alliance walked to OSU President Michael Drake’s office to deliver a Valentine’s Day-themed letter encouraging him to end OSU’s contract with Wendy’s until they join the Fair Food Program. Credit: Owen Daugherty | Lantern reporter

The holiday came in handy as a national farmworkers-advocacy group used a Valentine’s theme to ask Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program, with individual requests mailed to CEO Todd Penegor. Meanwhile, the OSU chapter of the Student/Farmworker Alliance hand-delivered its version of the request to University President Michael Drake, encouraging the school to drop its contract with Wendy’s until it joins the program.

Though the Fair Food Program has added 14 major corporations to its program, it hasn’t convinced Wendy’s to join. Unlike McDonald’s and Burger King, for example, which buy tomatoes from farms in Florida that are protected by the Fair Food Program’s code of conduct, Wendy’s gets its tomatoes from Mexico, where “human-rights conditions are worse across the board,” said Leonel Perez, a farmworker and member with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a workers’ rights organization.

The Fair Food Program, the CIW and the Alliance for Fair Food work together with purchasers — including McDonald’s and Burger King, as well as Wal-Mart and Chipotle — to ensure the protection of rights and wages for farmers and farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida, according to their websites.

“What we’re seeking is basic human rights for workers and that there will be respect in the workplace,” Perez said through translator Shelby Mack, the faith and food organizer with the Alliance for Fair Food.

Wendy’s tomatoes have been an issue the OSU Student/Farmworker Alliance has been battling since 2014, said Ben Wibking, a graduate student in astronomy and a member of the group. OSU’s contract with the Columbus-based fast-food chain pertains to the Wendy’s location inside the Wexner Medical Center. The past two contracts between OSU and Wendy’s state, under the “option to renew” section, that the school will work to find “a resolution of the concerns of the Student Farm Workers Alliance regarding the procurement of tomatoes for the operation of Tenant’s business at the Premise that is satisfactory to Landlord in its sole discretion.”

Wibking said the Student Farm Workers Alliance feels stiffed. That was the main goal of the reminders to Drake — to convince OSU to keep its promise. Perez echoed this message.

“It was a call for the administration to take a careful look at the corporations they are doing business with,” he said.  

OSU spokesman Ben Johnson said the university is committed to working with the students and with Wendy’s, but he said the students declined an offer to meet directly with Wendy’s. In the meantime, OSU extended the lease for six months in November.

Wibking said the group declined to meet with Wendy’s because of a statement it posted on its website in 2013. In the statement, Wendy’s said it is being targeted by CIW and that the restaurant should only have to negotiate directly with the supplier, not a third-party organization like CIW.

Workers in Immokalee, Florida, are not paid on an hourly or weekly basis, but rather by output, Perez said. One of the calls from the Fair Food Program is that an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked goes directly to the farmworkers. By adding this extra penny per pound, Perez said workers would notice a significant increase in their pay.

Without the Fair Food Program, if a farmworker in Immokalee, Florida, works a full day and harvests 160 32-pound baskets of tomatoes, the worker would be making roughly minimum wage, Perez said.

“Workers can’t earn a living and survive under these kind of conditions,” Perez said.

The additional-penny-per-pound system created by the Fair Food Program would require corporations to pay more to the growers who then distribute the extra money into the farmworkers’ paychecks. Depending on the amount of produce corporations order, farmworkers have seen a $20 to $60 raise in their paychecks per week, Perez said.

Even though these groups and organizations are working on behalf of farmworkers in Florida, Perez said this impacts everyone.

“If you eat, you are connected to farmworkers,” he said.


  1. Good to see this organization is with President Trump to keep jobs in America. Buy your tomatoes from Florida.

    But let’s be real… if you want to be effective, meet with Wendy’s. Declining an invitation shows that you would rather use the media to get your message across versus discussing your concerns with a company you feel could be the root cause of an issue and possibly make some changes. There is a reason why many people are sick of both politics and the media.

  2. Fairness is of the utmost importance, but thuggery to force a company to join an organization is wrong on every level.

    If you want Wendy’s to join and they are not interested, then it would be wise to ask them why?. If this article is correct, the implication that this organization has socialist underpinnings may be the first problem.

    As Greg pointed out, but in my own words, you solve problems and differences through face to face discussions with individuals, not by blasting someone (or a corporation, which is merely a collection of individuals) in the media. No one will listen to you if you are not willing to listen as well.

  3. Hmm…lemme see, pay higher wages to Americans that already have great living conditions and privileges, thus paying higher prices for my food, or stiff the much poorer Mexicans that rely on those jobs, as well as the country of Mexico which will encourage more illegal immigration. I detest unions, they are the scum-sucking bane of freedom, and will fight (physically as well as vocally) to my last breath against their underhanded attempts to gain more for themselves at the expense of others. Yes, i want lower prices. Yes, at the expense of unions with their overloaded bureaucracies and machinations to enlist governments to ensure their monopoly on goods and prices. Don’t be fooled, naive ones, while this “Fair Food” pogrom…er, “program”…may sound all cool and happy it is fascism on and under its surface. Make other countries better able to compete and the world benefits, isolate them and foster terrorism. Yes, i’m an American through and through (i served, did you?), and you’re a bunch of selfish, small-minded lazy (“Time for another 15 minute break fellow union comrades!”) louts.

  4. Wendy’s (as a corporation), and Dave Thomas (when he was alive as an individual), have provided millions of dollars in donations and benefits to the university, created thousands of jobs in central Ohio, hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, and been outstanding corporate citizens supporting hundreds of charities —– and people want them booted off campus because of their tomato supplier?

    Get a grip. No one should be telling them they have to pay semi-extortion to the CIW or any other worker advocacy group.

    I also agree with Greg above that not wanting to meet with Wendy’s show that this is just another grandstanding media event.

  5. More socialist crap. Let them eat organic free range cake.

  6. Wendy’s is a boon to Central Ohio. These socialists will not stop until they’ve destroyed everything good about our civilization.

  7. Hi my name [uninformed],

    I like tomatoes on my cheeseburger, and believing that a fast food company has helped to foster a non-existent economic boom by creating more service sector jobs. It’s unreasonable to assume that a fast food company worth $100 million pay an extra 20$ to 60$ per worker because the cost of my cheeseburger will go up even though I already subsidize their business because many of their employees receive government benefits. Plus, if they pay people a livable wage, they will get priced out by companies who are perfectly willing to buy produce from sla… er, wage laborers. But hey, this is America, everyone knows that businesses have no obligation to serve there employees, only to compete for more money. Anyone who says otherwise is a socialist.

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