FTUSA: Shovel your shit somewhere else!

Migrant Justice has sent a letter alongside nearly three dozen labor rights, farmer, and farmworker organizations addressed to the CEO of "Fair Trade USA" (FTUSA). In it, we call on the group to stop a proposed pilot that it claims will improve labor conditions in the dairy industry.

FTUSA has a long history of slapping "fair trade" labels on products without protecting the rights of the workers making those products. While claiming to support workers, they essentially work as a PR firm for brands. This "fair-washing" confuses consumers, sweeps abuses under the rug, and actively undermines workers' efforts to organize to win rights and protections. Now, they are developing a program for the dairy industry with yogurt company Chobani.

“As workers, we have fought hard to change the terrible conditions we face on farms,” says Vermont dairy worker and Migrant Justice leader Rossy Alfaro. “We have created a program that is actually making a difference and enforcing our rights. Now Fair Trade USA is coming along, dressed up like a program that helps workers, but it’s really only propaganda for the companies that are getting rich while we suffer.

From our letter denouncing FTUSA's proposed dairy program:

The FTUSA program appears designed with no intention that the standards actually be met, with no way for its designated monitors to determine what actual working conditions are. Such a program could not truthfully certify dairy farms’ compliance with any standards, because their enforcement systems lack ways for workers to understand their rights, report violations of those rights, be protected from retaliation for attempting to enforce standards, or participate in any meaningful way in monitoring their employers’ compliance.

FTUSA's deceptive rhetoric and terrible track record form a stark contrast to the Milk with Dignity Program. While FTUSA's dairy program is being propelled by corporations over the objections of the workers it would supposedly benefit, Milk with Dignity was designed, fought for, and implemented by farmworkers themselves. While FTUSA announces standards that exist only on paper, Milk with Dignity establishes strong enforcement mechanisms to ensure respect for workers' rights, backed up by real market consequences for employers that don't comply.

On Saturday, October 3rd, Migrant Justice and the Milk with Dignity Standards Council will release a report documenting the first two years of the Milk with Dignity Program. Covering hundreds of dairy workers, the program is achieving unprecedented transformations on dairy farms throughout Vermont and New York, and we are excited to share a detailed report of these accomplishments.

October 3rd will mark three years since Ben & Jerry's became the first company to join the Milk with Dignity Program and a full year since we publicly called on supermarket chain Hannaford to follow suit. On that day, we will organize delegations to Hannaford supermarkets around the region to deliver the Milk with Dignity report to store managers.

Can you support farmworkers on 10/3? Sign up take part in a delegation to a Hannaford store or to help publicize the report release from afar!

As we've written, Hannaford has recently started to make claims that the company has developed "standards of engagement," or expectations of labor conditions, for its suppliers. But let's be clear: whether it's a company's own internal guidelines, or hollow standards created by corporate hucksters like FTUSA, these supply chain programs are worse than useless unless they are driven by workers themselves and backed up by strong enforcement mechanisms.

Luckily, such a program exists. If Hannaford is serious about protecting the rights of farmworkers behind its store-brand milk, then it needs to get with the program: on October 3rd, let's tell them that it's time to join Milk with Dignity.