Members of Real Food Challenge OU marched Tuesday afternoon with representatives of the Student/Farmworker Alliance and farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in support of fair food.
The protesters campaigned for Wendy’s to sign onto the Fair Food Program, “which ensures that workers receive higher pay and are more aware of their rights as workers,” said the Facebook page for the event.
“Basically if Wendy’s paid one cent more per pound of tomatoes, it would help double wages for the farmworkers,” Rachel Komich, co-coordinator of the Real Food Challenge and senior English major, said. “We went in and… tried to give them our letter so they definitely know there are students here protesting Wendy’s because they’re not complying.”
The marchers met outside Baker University Center and marched to the Wendy’s location on Court Street, where they held signs outside. They then walked to Cutler Hall and presented their case for fair food on College Green.
Sophomore creative writing major Sasha Gough took part in the demonstration. She believed the event was successful in that it put forth a new step by presenting the demands.
“I went because I think the university could be more responsible when it comes to feeding our students,” Gough said. “Vague isn’t something that should be accepted when it comes to food.”
Later that night, the group rejoined along with OU community members to hear “The Struggle for Farmworker Justice: The Wendy’s Campaign in Ohio,” a talk presented by SFA and CIW about the farm abuses farmworkers face nationwide.
“This organization was formed in the early 1990s to attempt to reach dialogue with the growers, the people who own the farm workers are working on every day, as a way to try and end the abuses farmworkers were experiencing,” Santiago Perez, an activist with CIW said. Natali Rodriguez served as Perez’s translator.
“The working conditions within the agricultural industry are some of the worst you’ll find, and it’s also some of the most difficult work and some of the least paid work as well,” Perez said. “Things like wage theft, discrimination, sexual harassment, those are things you would see on the daily.”
The visit was part of CIW’s ongoing Fair Food Workers’ Voice tour, and Perez and Rodriguez encouraged the audience to attend its culminating protest march on Wendy’s at its Columbus headquarters on March 6.
The Real Food Challenge at OU seeks to rebuild the food system based on principles of fairness, humanity, community and sustainability.
“It’s been implemented at schools across the country, and what that means is that those schools have agreed to purchase 20 percent real food by 2020,” sophomore English major Daniel Kington said. Kington is a member of OU’s Real Food Challenge chapter.
“Real food is food that’s community-based, ecologically sound, humane for animals and just for workers,” Kington said. “We’re just sort of starting out on campus; this is our first act together.”