Officers from the Ohio State University Police Department were called to Bricker Hall after members from the Student/Farmworker Alliance staged with a sit-in inside at University President Michael Drake’s office.
The protesters arrived at Bricker Hall around 3 p.m and demanded that the university cut its contract with Wendy’s until the fast food giant joins the Fair Food Program.
The FFP is a partnership among farmers, farmworkers and retail food companies to ensure humane wages and working conditions for workers on participating farms. The program has been joined by restaurants like McDonalds and Chipotle, but Wendy’s has declined to do so.
While inside the building students attempted to ask Drake why the university continues to have a contract with Wendy’s, he told them that he had an appointment to get to and was escorted upstairs to his meeting by campus police.
Director of Public Safety Monica Moll arrived on the scene at 5:20 p.m. and told protestors that if they are still inside the building after 5:30 p.m. that it would be considered criminal trespassing.
“We don’t want anyone to get arrested but if we have to then that would be for criminal trespassing,” Moll said. “We appreciate folks who express their views and are here for a cause but we have to treat every group the same whether we agree with it or not.”
Protestors were escorted out at 5:30 p.m by police.
Henry Peller, a graduate student in soil science who participated in the sit-in, said farmers are simply not paid enough.
“This is a long standing movement of farmworkers from Florida who, against all odds, have gone up against some of the largest companies on the planet and managed to win dignity,” Peller said. “If you look at farmers commision, the people who pick our food and are paid almost nothing.”
Rachel Birri, a third-year in environmental science, is apart of SFA and also participated in the sit-in. She said the group has been trying to get Ohio State to cut its contract with Wendy’s for a while.
“Our group has been calling out Ohio State for six years now ands we are here today because we believe that Ohio State has stalled long enough,” she said. “They have refused to meet with us, they have refused to talk to us, and they have refused to cut their contract. We are here until they cut their contract with Wendy’s.”
Ben Johnson, spokesman for Ohio State, said in a statement that Ohio State has engaged with SFA in the past and respects their right to protest.
“Ohio State is committed to social responsibility and actively supports fair treatment of workers. The university believes strongly in free speech and respects the rights of our students and others to voice their opinions,” Johnson said. “The Student Farmworker Alliance is aware of Ohio State’s position and efforts, and university officials have met with the group numerous times.”