Milk with Dignity!
VT Dairy Workers Are Securing Human Rights With the Milk with Dignity Program!
***November 2016 Campaign Update: Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's agreed in May 2015 to work together to operationalize the Milk with Dignity Program in the Ben & Jerry's Supply Chain and have been working steadily towards that goal ever since!
Background on Milk with Dignity Campaign
The challenges dairy workers face, established in a farmworker survey and after years of community dialogue, led farmworkers to launch the Milk with Dignity Campaign in the fall of 2014. The campaign builds a movement of farmworkers and allies to call on major food corporations to take responsibility for farmworker rights abuses in their supply chains. Farmworkers converted worker's rights and housing violations into solutions in the creation of the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct—defining the human rights essential to a dignified workplace and fair housing. Our members also noted that some dairy farms already had most of the Code of Conduct’s standards in place, demonstrating that it is both necessary and possible to raise the bar in the industry through this campaign.
To build the campaign farmworkers also engaged in a study of the dairy industry, recognizing that a corporate-controlled industry places downward pressure on farmers' incomes, and profits rise for the few when milk prices are low for the many. Additionally, Migrant Justice farmworker leaders have been an ongoing dialogue with Florida farmworkers since August of 2014 to learn about their successful Campaign for Fair Food seeking to adapt the core concepts of their Fair Food Program to the VT dairy context. The development and design of the Milk with Dignity Program was done with strategic support and collaboration from both the CIW and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI).
In December 2014 farmworkers approached Ben & Jerry's, inviting the company to take the lead in the industry by joining the Milk with Dignity Program-- precisely because they are a corporation that has distinguished itself for its commitment to social justice and high standards for sourcing ingredients in its world famous ice cream. Ben & Jerry's is also important to farmworkers because it purchases 100% of its cream from St. Albans Cooperative farms where many (if not the majority) of Vermont's 1,200 - 1,500 dairy farmworkers are employed. Farmworkers invited Ben & Jerry's to be an industry leader in joining the Milk with Dignity Program, adapted from the Coalition of Immokalee Worker's (CIW) world-renowned Fair Food Program that has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of Florida farmworkers. The Program includes these 5 essential elements:
* Farmworker-Authored Code of Conduct: farmworkers’ definition of the human right to work with dignity and fair housing;
* Farmworker Education: Guarantees workers’ the right to receive education about their rights under the Code of Conduct;
* Third Party Monitoring Body: Monitors, enforces and audits farmer compliance with Code of Conduct; receives worker complaints and addresses grievances; creates improvement plans to address violations; enforces consequences for non-compliance
* Economic relief: Participating corporations restore economic justice in the supply chain paying an extra premiumdirectly to both farmworkers AND farmers
* Legally-binding Agreements: Participating Corporations (Ben & Jerry's) sign a legally binding agreement that defines the program as an enforceable contract under the law
On June 19th, 2015 Ben & Jerry's and Migrant Justice signed an Agreement to Cooperate and have been working, ever since (as of November 2016), to hash out the details of how to operationalize the Milk with Dignity Program!
Media: Milk with Dignity Campaign in the news