The Disciples of Christ held their North American General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio this week. On Sunday they put their faith into action by holding a vigil outside a new Wendy’s restaurant near the Ohio State University.
Joined by members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio Fair Food, and the Student/Farmworker Alliance, the Disciples called on Wendy’s to support fair pay and human rights for farm workers by joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has supported the campaign for fair food since the CIW launched a successful boycott of Taco Bell in 2005. Emil Brolick agreed to join the Fair Food Program when he was president of Taco Bell (Yum! Brands). Now Brolick is the CEO of Wendy’s, the only one of the top five U.S. fast food chains that has refused to sign an agreement with the CIW.
The Wendy’s Corporation has forbidden store managers to speak with CIW supporters or allow them to enter their restaurants. During Sunday’s protest, Wendy’s employees forcibly prevented the Disciples from entering the store.
The Disciples sang “We Shall Overcome”out on the sidewalk while Columbus police arrived and asked the them to stay out on the sidewalk.
“We weren’t exactly welcome,” said Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director of the Disciples’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries. “But our hearts are also filled with compassion for anyone who works here.”
Rev. Stanley-Rea likened the barred door at Wendy’s to the walled city of Jericho in Joshua Chapter 6. “I pray with you that together we will continue working here to tear down the wall!” she said.
Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, was a member of the Disciples of Christ.
“Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, was a member of the Disciples of Christ,” said Rev. Jack Barnes. “I am convinced that if he was still alive today, we would not have to be here to put pressure on Wendy’s and remind them of their heritage as well as our heritage of justice.”
The Disciples have no “official” interpretation of the Bible and no formal creed. Their main focus is to follow the example of Jesus, especially with a fervent commitment to social justice.
“Everybody who follows in the footsteps of Christ is committed to dignity for workers,” said Sandhya Jha, founder and director of the Oakland Peace Center. “God himself stands with the workers, and that’s why we stand with them also. “
“We are not unaccustomed to Wendy’s closing the door on us and refusing to let us enter,” said Julia de la Cruz from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “But our struggle is never to become discouraged, but to increase our energy and commitment as we fight for justice for all farm workers. We will keep fighting. The Disciples of Christ have supported us for so many years, and the struggle continues. Before long, Wendy’s will have to join the Fair Food Program.”