Rollins’ Imagine Justice and the broader Winter Park community recently protested at Wendy’s 11734 E. Colonial Dr. location. Unlike other fast food chains, the restaurant has refused to sign onto the Fair Food Program, which protects farmworkers’ human rights and requires humane wages.
Everyone participating in the protest from the Rollins community met at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1 outside the Alfond Sports Center. A couple students drove in cars, but most people rode together in the JUMP bus to the restaurant’s location. A friend of a Rollins student and a Rollins professor joined the group on the bus. A few minutes before arriving at the restaurant, waivers were signed, pamphlets were distributed, and instructions were given.
Protesters were required to stay on the sidewalk and told to remain a safe distance from the road. It was explained that if someone became aggressive or upset, picketers were not to engage with them and should seek help from other students or Professor Nichter, the faculty advisor.
“It was nice to have Professor Nichter with us to hear from his experiences and to interact with him in that space outside of the classroom,” said Muniba Khan ’21. When asked to give a statement, Nichter said, “Corporations are immoral. If we don’t pressure them, they won’t change.”
The pamphlets detailed what the Fair Food Program entails, the consequences of Wendy’s nonparticipation, and how consumers can help change their minds. Boycotting Wendy’s, tweeting at Wendy’s with #boycottwendys, and signing online petitions are all listed as simple ways to convince Wendy’s to sign the agreement. It lists Chipotle, Subway, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Walmart as alternative participators in the program.
Rollins participants arrived around 2 p.m. and met up with members of The Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry (YAYA), and a representative from the Orlando Light Brigade, who brought large letters spelling out “FAIR FOOD.”
Everyone split up into three groups: one across the sidewalk facing the main highway with Imagine Justice’s and the Light Brigade’s signs, one on the corner to the entrance of the parking lot, and one just before the entrance to Wendy’s property.
The pamphlets were divided among each group to offer to those in cars and pedestrians passing by. Some chanted “Boycott Wendy’s” and “Fairness for Farmworkers” throughout the two-hour picket.
Spirits remained high through the entirety of the protest. “I was surprised by how receptive and positive and curious passersby were about our protest. It was heartening to see people use their consumer choices to support farmworkers,” stated Madelaine Chatham, ’17.
Erin McCusker ’19 echoed the same feelings: “I was surprised by how many people we talked to were genuinely interested… Some people brush you off or give you looks, but… Several people said how they weren’t going to eat at Wendy’s after we talked to them.”
Khan also praised its success: “The picket was amazing! We had a good turnout, and a lot of people were receptive about what we had to say, and frustrated by Wendy’s refusal to acknowledge this issue.” Meredith Klenkel ’21 agreed, “During the protest I felt like people were really convinced… Since education is the most important changemaker, it felt effective!”
Khan, as a board member of Imagine Justice, Rollins’ social justice club, led the Wendy’s picket. “Before the protest, I was excited, but stressed out because a lot goes into organizing a successful picket.” She explained that the Orlando Police department had to be contacted, posters made, JUMP bus obtained, and the event publicized. Imagine Justice meets on Mondays from 4 to 5 p.m.
According to Khan, “Next semester, [we are] planning to work in collaboration with YAYA so we can attend some of their protests, and hold a couple as well…. We’re thinking about extending our efforts to protesting Publix as well. Publix similarly refuses to sign onto the Fair Food program and support farm workers experiencing injustices like economic strife, wage theft, sexual harassment, slavery, the list goes on.”
“We are all unknowingly affected by this every time we eat,” said Alexis MacMahon ’19. To Rollins students and staff, Khan stated, “As consumers, we have the power to do something about this injustice. By joining the Wendy’s boycott and refraining from buying their wrongly-sourced food, we can push them to sign on.”