Milk with Dignity Campaign

The Milk with Dignity campaign builds a movement of farmworkers and allies calling on dairy companies to ensure respect for human rights in their supply chains by joining the worker-driven Milk with Dignity Program


photo by Q2
photo by Q2

After years of "putting out fires" in defense of Vermont dairy worker's rights on a farm by farm basis, Vermont farmworker members of Migrant Justice decided it was time for a systemic solution with the capacity to drive industry wide change.  In 2014, Vermont dairy workers conducted an in-depth survey to document the top workplace and housing issues in the industry. Workers then converted these 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. 

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 initiated an ongoing dialogue with Florida farmworkers beginning in August of 2014 to learn about their successful experiences with the Campaign for Fair Food.  Through this process Vermont workers learned that they were in need of much more than standards or a Code without enforcement, which is the prevailing public relations based approach found in Corporate Social Responsability (CSR) initiatives.  Therefore, workers began a process to adapt the core concepts of their Fair Food Program to the VT dairy context resulting in a deep dive into the power of the Worker-Driven Social Responsability (WSR) model. The development and design of the Milk with Dignity Program was done with strategic support and collaboration from both the CIW, the Fair Food Standards Council, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) all founding members of the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network.

Farmworkers invite dairy companies to take responsibility for the rights and well-being of farmworkers in their supply chain by joining the Milk with Dignity Program. Companies joining the program adhere to its 5 core principles:

  • 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 sign a legally binding agreement that defines the program as an enforceable contract under the law

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. Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's engaged in nearly three years of discussion – accompanied by public campaigining from workers and consumers encouraging the company to join the program. The campaign ended on October 3, 2017 when Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's finalized and signed the first ever Milk with Dignity Agreement!

photo by Terry Allen
photo by Terry Allen

Two years to the day after bringing Ben & Jerry's into the program, Migrant Justice launched a new campaign calling on Hannaford to join Milk with Dignity.  Farmworkers are demanding that the supermarket chain -- a major dairy buyer, with nearly 200 stores around the northeast -- take responsibility for human rights abuses in its supply chain.  Make sure you are on our email list and follow us on social media to stay involved in the ongoing campaign!

Milk with Dignity Campaign Resources

Milk with Dignity Program Description

2014 Farmworker Survey Results

2020 Farmworker Health and Safety Survey Results

Hannaford Action Toolkit