No sign through Wendy's logo

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) earlier this week unanimously voted to urge the Ohio State University administration not to renew its lease agreement for an on-campus Wendy’s due to the company’s failure to commit to the Fair Food Program, which provides verifiable human rights protections to farmworkers in its supply chain.

The Fair Food Program is “the gold standard for enforcing human rights in the U.S. agricultural system,” declared the USG.

Pioneered by the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the social responsibility program has been adopted by some of the biggest fast-food chains and supermarkets in the world, including McDonald’s and Walmart, and has a track record second-to-none for eliminating longstanding farm labor abuses ranging from forced labor to sexual assault. 

Wendy’s is the last fast-food giant to reject the Fair Food Program. during a pandemic no less. According to the CIW nearly 90,000 meatpacking workers, food processing workers, and farmworkers have tested positive for COVID-19, as food and agricultural workers have suffered the highest COVID-19 death rates of workers in any occupation. 

“As the headquarters and founding place of Wendy’s, Columbus has always been an important site of organizing for CIW,” said OSU student Julia Allwein also a member of the Student/Farmworker Alliance. “This resolution is a powerful message to the University Administration and President Kristina Johnson that the undergraduate student body will not support Wendy’s complacency in farmworker abuse. It is time for OSU to do the right thing, listen to student voices, and not renew their lease with Wendy’s.”

The on-campus Wendy’s is owned by Thomas 5 Limited, a company owned by the namesake of the fast-food giant, Wendy Morse herself. The University leases the space in Doan hall to Wendy’s, a contract which is up for renewal this upcoming June.

The CIW’s own Gerardo Reyes Chavez spoke before the vote. “We’re not demanding anything aside from quality control. What we’re asking them [Wendy’s] to do is actually pay attention to what’s going on for the people producing the food that’s generating profits for you.”

Wendy’s website currently states the company relies upon “third-party reviews” to determine whether its suppliers are in compliance with Wendy’s Supplier Code of Conduct, a set of voluntary standards without meaningful worker participation or a mandatory enforcement mechanism for compliance. 

In fact, one of the third-party reviews or social audits that Wendy’s uses is SA8000. In 2012, SA8000 certification failed to prevent safety hazards in a Pakistani textile factory to the extent that, just weeks after the factory was certified as safe, a fire killed nearly 300 workers. 

In 2015, after pressure from student activists, the University administration told Wendy’s that any future lease was “conditioned upon a satisfactory resolution of the concerns of Student Farm Workers Alliance with regard to the Tenant sourcing of tomatoes for the business that Tenant is operating on the premises.”

The University administrators then promised OSU students in a subsequent email that “satisfactory resolution” meant either “Wendy’s participation in the Fair Food Program,” or documentation disclosing sourcing of tomatoes so as to verify Wendy’s purchasing is consistent with the tenants of the Fair Food Program.

OSU’s Student/Farmworker Alliance chapter says there’s been no “satisfactory resolution” of either.

USG senator Teresa Lebowitz shared with the Senate, “This legislation encompasses our responsibility as senators to hold the university accountable both internally and externally through partnerships with other companies. This piece resonates with me because it highlights the importance of humanity over profits. Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program calls attention to their willful ignorance, and Ohio State idly participates in this ignorance when refusing to acknowledge Wendy’s wrongdoings.”

USG senator Greg Carson reflected, “I only knew about Wendy’s food-wise, but was unaware of the underlying actions of this franchise. As stated in the resolution, farmworkers are literally risking their lives doing essential work that does go unnoticed and it shouldn’t be that way. I was interested in this resolution because I gained knowledge about the struggles farmworkers have to endure but also Wendy’s, a franchise I once thought was unproblematic.”

The unanimousdeclaration of support for the nationwide Wendy’s Boycott by the OSU student body marks a milestone in the nationwide “Boot the Braids” campaign, a coordinated effort by students across the country to convince major universities to cut ties with Wendy’s due to the company’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program.

The resolution builds on a six-year national boycott of Wendy’s, including a rolling student fast in 2017 that began when 19 students fasted for seven days at OSU, and resulted in hundreds of students at over a dozen schools fasting in protest of Wendy’s refusal to take meaningful action to protect farmworkers in its supply chain against sexual violence and forced labor.  


Student/Farmworker Alliance

A national network of students and young people working in direct partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to uproot exploitation in the fields and build a food system based on justice, respect and dignity for farmworkers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers

A human rights organization and Presidential Medal recipient internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of social responsibility, anti-sexual violence efforts, community organizing, and ending slavery. The CIW’s Fair Food Program is a groundbreaking partnership among farmworkers, produce farmers, and fourteen major food retailers, including Walmart and Stop & Shop. Participating retailers agree to purchase from suppliers who meet a worker-driven code of conduct, which includes a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and sexual assault. Retailers also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium, which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out directly to workers by their employers. Since the program’s inception in 2011, buyers have paid over $32 million in premiums. For more information, visit