Vermont “Dreamer” Joins Florida Farmworkers for 5 Day #FreedomFast in New York City

#TimesUpWendys: Put an End to Sexual Violence in the Fields

For generations, farmworker women have endured some of the most hostile working conditions this country has to offer.  Farmworker women have referred to the constant barrage of catcalls, groping, and sexual assault as “our daily bread” in the fields. In one study, four out of every five farmworker women reported experiencing sexual harassment or violence at work.

But in 2011, after nearly two decades of hard-fought organizing with consumers across the country, farmworker women and men with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) launched the Fair Food Program (FFP) and, within a few short years, put an end to sexual assault and other human rights violations in the $650 million Florida tomato industry.  Today, the FFP extends to seven states and three crops, and all the major fast-food companies – McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, KFC, and Chipotle – are on board.  

All except Wendy’s.

For years now, Wendy’s has totally ignored Florida farmworkers’ and consumers’ persistent calls to join the world-renowned Fair Food Program and join the rest of the fast food industry in protecting the fundamental human rights of farmworkers in its supply chain. So in response, yesterday Florida farmworkers and allies across the nation kicked off a 5-day “Freedom Fast”​.  Right now​, Migrant Justice member and dreamer Martha Herrera is in New York City outside the hedge fund office of Nelson Peltz, Wendy's largest shareholder and board chair, fasting in solidarity with dozens of Florida farmworkers and fair food allies demanding Wendy's join the Fair Food Program. 

Martha reflects on her motivation, “As a woman, as a member of Migrant Justice, and as a dreamer I am participating in the #FreedomFast for 5 days, to unite our voice with my compañeras from the Tomato industry. Something that really impacted me when I visited Immokalee was to see how the women’s community is so strong and for me this deeply inspired me because in most industries we women have no voice and no power.”


#JoseLuisFreed: Mass campaign wins release of detained farmworker!

Jose Luis Cordova Herrera was freed today following a mass community campaign calling for his release.  Nearly 1,500 people -- including Vermont’s congressional delegation -- wrote to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking for freedom for the 40-year-old farmworker and father of three.

Upon his release from the prison where he spent nearly three weeks, Jose Luis reflected: "I want to thank everyone who supported me while I was locked up.  Being in prison you have a lot of time to think, to meditate, and I came to realize how important it is to be part of an organization like Migrant Justice. My freedom is proof of the power of an organized community."

Citing Jose Luis' history as a dairy worker in Vermont and his lack of criminal record, Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Representative Welch wrote in a February 16th letter: “It is unclear why ICE would consider Mr. Cordova Herrera an enforcement priority.”

Vermont sides with Trump over human rights

On Tuesday December 12th, a group of law enforcement officials voted to weaken Vermont's Fair and Impartial Policing policy (FIP), opening the door to more discrimination and police collaboration with Trump's deportation agents.

The vote took place just as new details are emerging from a traffic stop over the summer that resulted in the immigration detention of two farmworkers, a father and son.

A deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department is seen on video calling Border Patrol to the scene after pulling over a dairy worker for lack of vehicle registration and learning that he is a Mexican national. Throughout the 45 minute ordeal, sheriff's deputies offer extensive support to the deportation agents, who use racial slurs to refer to the immigrant workers.  Months after the stop, the two farmworkers continue to be held in immigration detention pending their deportation.

Despite extensive local and national coverage of the issue, over a thousand emails to law enforcement and elected officials, and the firm opposition of Migrant Justice members and allies at Tuesday's meeting, the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council voted to water down the FIP by creating new loopholes to allow for discriminatory treatment.

Though Tuesday's vote was a blow to human rights, the struggle for equal treatment in Vermont continues.  The new policy won't go into effect until March 1st, 2018, and Migrant Justice will continue to fight to ensure that Vermont law enforcement stay out of the business of deportation.  Stay tuned for next steps!


A new day for dairy: Milk with Dignity agreement signed! Watershed moment for workers’ rights in the dairy industry

On Tuesday October 3, farmworker leaders from Migrant Justice and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s jointly signed the Milk with Dignity agreement.  The legally-binding contract establishes Ben & Jerry’s as the first company in the dairy industry to implement the worker-driven human rights program.  This momentous occasion marks the beginning of a new day for dairy, one that provides economic relief and support to struggling farm owners, in the form of a premium paid by Ben & Jerry’s, while ensuring dignity and respect for farmworkers.

Before putting his signature on the document, Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique “Kike” Balcazar spoke to those assembled:

“This is an historic moment for dairy workers.  We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now we move forward towards a new day for the industry.  We appreciate Ben & Jerry’s leadership role and look forward to working together to implement a program that ensures dignified housing and fair working conditions on dairy farms across the region. And though this is the first, it won’t be the last agreement of its kind."

The agreement has already made it onto the pages of the New York Times!

October 5th: a Dozen HUMAN RIGHTS CAN'T WAIT Actions and Counting

10/3/17 Update: 

Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's sign historic agreement!


Vermont dairy workers came home this week following a 12-day speaking tour along the East coast.  Workers traveled to 11 cities -- from Burlington to Washington, D.C. -- to draw attention to human rights abuses in the dairy supply chain of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  In college lecture halls and community health centers, the farmworkers who put the cream in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream rallied students, workers, and faith leaders to call on the company to ensure fair working conditions by following through on their long-awaited commitment to the Milk with Dignity program on a national “Human Rights Can’t Wait” day of action planned for October 5th.

To join us at one of a dozen actions already planned for October 5th, or to plan your own, head over to our website!

Hitting the Road for Milk with Dignity!


10/3/17 Update: 

Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's sign historic agreement!

Dairy workers kicked off the “Human Rights Can’t Wait” speaking tour through the Northeast last week, engaging hundreds of students and community members. Presentations included a packed house at Columbia Law School, a community dialogue at the MayDay space in Brooklyn, and a full day at Yale University with four events throughout the day coordinated by the Yale Sustainable Food Program.  

Workers rights threatened by guest worker proposal in Congress

The following appeared as an op-ed in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus on August 5th, 2017

A bill is quietly wending its way through Congress that would seriously hurt Vermont, our farmers, and the workers who sustain the state’s $1.3 billion dairy industry.  

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee recently adopted an amendment to the 2018 homeland security spending bill that would expand H-2A to include dairy farms.  Though there are more votes needed before this measure could become law, last week’s committee vote represents a step towards the expansion of this dangerous anti-worker program.  The creation of a new legal path for Vermont farms to hire migrant workers may sound like a welcome option, but in fact, passage of the amendment would be a step backwards. It would exclude and displace the women and men currently sustaining Vermont’s dairy farms, rather than grant status to the existing labor force and recognize our farmworker neighbors as equals under the law.

Announcing the "Human Rights Cannot Wait" Tour!

10/3/17 Update: 

Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's sign historic agreement!


Just over a month ago, Jostein Solheim, the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, publicly reassured hundreds of farmworkers and their fair food allies -- at the culmination of their 13-mile march to the company's factory in Waterbury, VT – that Ben & Jerry’s is “ready to go” when it comes to Milk with Dignity.

And yet the corporation, known by many for its professed progressive values, still has yet to follow through on its commitment to protect the fundamental human rights of dairy workers in its supply chain by signing the Milk with Dignity Agreement. The Milk with Dignity Program is in fact ready to go, and designed to secure economic justice in the dairy industry by requiring corporations, like Ben & Jerry’s, to pay a price premium that goes to providing farmworkers and farmers economic relief and direct support to comply with the Program’s human rights based Code of Conduct.  The Code of Conduct requires farms to respect workers’ fundamental rights or lose sales to participating buyers.

To keep the pressure on Ben & Jerry’s to honor its commitment, Migrant Justice farmworker members and allies are hitting the road for the big Human Rights Can’t Wait Tour in September. From Vermont to New York City, to Boston, to DC and Philadelphia along the 1000 + mile tour route, workers will be informing the public exactly what’s inside that pint of Ben & Jerry’s when it comes to human rights conditions for dairy workers. The Tour will culminate in a national day of action on October 5th, and we need your support to make it happen.