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Students prepare for Freedom Fast

Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Freedom Fast and march to be held in New York March 15

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Student groups have extended support to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ efforts to end sexual violence within Wendy’s supply chain.

Organizers from the Student Labor Alliance, the Student Farmworker Alliance and the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition are currently recruiting students to attend the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Freedom Fast and the corresponding march that will take place in New York City March 15. CIW aims to use the fast and march to “end sexual violence in Wendy’s supply chain by bringing the fast-food chain into (CIW’s) Fair Food Program,” according to the recruitment form for the event.

Wendy’s is currently the last major food chain that has not joined the Fair Food Program, an initiative intended to eliminate sexual harassment and violence in farm fields, said Emma Galvin ’18.5, a student organizer of the event. By partnering with the Fair Food Program, fast food companies agree to comply with a code of conduct that protects workers’ rights and gives workers the opportunity to file reports of sexual harassment or assault through the program.

Lupe Gonzalo, a former field worker and current leader of CIW who is organizing the New York fast and march, said she was inspired to take action after seeing how CIW transformed the protection of workers’ rights on the ranch where she was previously employed. Representatives from CIW spoke with workers about “sexual harassment and how to report it. … They handed out books, cards and phone numbers that we could call at any time of the day to report” an incident, Gonzalo said. “It was the workers who started this movement. After hearing about this and all the rights we have, I started going to meetings, rallies and protests.”

Demonstrators plan to demand that Wendy’s joins the program by holding a fast outside the office of Nelson Peltz, the company’s board chairman, and marching through midtown Manhattan, Galvin said.

CIW activists will partake in the fast because corporations like Wendy’s “have not heard us … so we must be in front of their offices, hungry, so they can listen to us,” Gonzalo said.

Galvin added that the event provides students and campus organizations with an opportunity to offer support and solidarity for workers’ rights. “The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has specifically asked students to show up in this way because … students are being marketed to by Wendy’s.” By harnessing the power of consumers, organizers hope to show Wendy’s that students will not “be exploited by Wendy’s marketing in the same way that workers aren’t going to be exploited in the fields,” Galvin said.

“Consumers go to restaurants and fast-food places, but no one tells them what’s behind those products,” Gonzalo said. But behind the brands of corporations, there “is also poverty, exploitation and slavery. By seeing what field workers were going though, the consumer can use their power to make others respect us as field workers.”

Currently, organizers at the University and in Boston and New Haven, Connecticut are recruiting students and community members to travel to New York to participate in the march, Galvin said. While 40 people from Providence have officially registered to attend, organizers are still attempting to turn interest on campus into concrete commitments, she added.

In order to increase interest, they have contacted members of the Providence community to attend the march. “We’ve been doing outreach in interfaith communities … and labor organizing in Providence,” Galvin said. This has included groups such as labor unions, Jobs for Justice and the Working Families Party, she added.

Student coordinators at the University have received sponsorships from the Department of Environmental Studies, the Student Labor Alliance, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Undergraduate Finance Board, the Chaplain’s Office and the Service Employees International Union, Galvin wrote in an email to The Herald. The group sponsorships have allowed students to lower the prices for tickets to New York, she added.

This event also marks an important step in changing the way that students take a stand to end sexual violence, said Greg Asbed ’85, the co-founder of CIW. “Anybody who is moved by this battle to end sexual harassment and sexual assault… should be there in New York,” he added.

With additional reporting by Coral Murphy, who translated Lupe Gonzalo’s quotes from Spanish into English.