Vermont Dairy Workers Call on Hannaford Supermarkets to Join Migrant Rights Program

Oct 4, 2019
10:56 AM

On Thursday in Burlington, Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based human rights organization founded and led by immigrant farmworkers, held a press conference, asking the Hannaford supermarket chain to join the Milk with Dignity Program.

In 2017, Ben & Jerry’s joined the campaign and organizers are now focusing on Hannaford, a supermarket chain that serves Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and eastern upstate New York.

In recent months, Migrant Justice contacted Hannaford about the campaign, but has received no response.

“Hannaford has the power to transform the dairy industry. With almost 200 stores around the Northeast, they buy a lot of milk from farms where we are working hard milking cows. Hannaford has an opportunity to be a human rights champion by joining Milk with Dignity,” Rosi, a dairy worker from central Vermont, said in a Migrant Justice media release.

The push to have Hannaford join the campaign follows a successful 2017 agreement between Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry’s.

“By joining Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity program, Ben & Jerry’s committed to source 100% of its northeast dairy supply chain from farms that comply with a comprehensive, worker-authored code of conduct. The company pays a premium to participating farms, Migrant Justice educates workers on their rights in the program, and a third-party auditor —the Milk with Dignity Standards Council (MDSC)— monitors farms’ compliance,” Migrant Justice noted in a Thursday release.

Last week, Migrant Justice shared video testimonies of the program’s impacts.

The program covers approximately 250 farmworkers on nearly 70 farms in Vermont and New York, and accounts for more than 20% of Vermont’s dairy industry by volume, the release also noted.

“To date, Milk with Dignity has resulted in over $370,000 of additional payments to workers in the form of raises and bonuses,” Migrant Justice said. “Additionally, the program has resulted in guaranteed days off, paid vacation and sick days; improvements to housing; new health and safety protections; increased job security; and new policies against sexual harassment and discrimination.”

“The Milk with Dignity program allows us to pay the people that do these very important jobs an acceptable wage.  Since joining Milk with Dignity our farm has maintained a 85% employee retention rate. Less turnover has led to higher morale  and greater workplace continuity. The program has helped us make huge strides in employer,” employer Matt Maxwell, a farm owner enrolled in Milk with Dignity, said.

Migrant Justice explained that dairy farms not part of the Milk with Dignity program are still facing problems.

“A recent survey of over 100 Vermont dairy workers developed in collaboration between Migrant Justice and researchers with the Tufts School of Public Health, and analyzed by the Columbia University Law School Human Rights Clinic, shows stark evidence of ongoing risks to workers’ health and safety: 93% of workers have been injured by chemicals, 78% by animals, and 77% by machinery; yet only 18% have access to protective equipment and less than 6% receive sufficient training,” Migrant Justice explained.

Last year, Latino Rebels Radio featured the work of Migrant Justice in Vermont.

According to Migrant Justice, “Hannaford brand milk is produced by processor H.P. Hood at several facilities around the Northeast. Many stores source from the H.P. Hood plant in Barre, VT, a significant buyer of milk from Vermont dairy farms.”