Give thanks to farmworkers – and their fight for human rights
Posted Thu, 11/25/2021 - 1:36pm
As many families gather today over a meal, it’s just another work day for farmworkers, who are toiling on fields and in barns to put food on our holiday tables. Migrant Justice members are busy milking cows, cleaning stalls – and planning out the next steps in the campaign to expand the Milk with Dignity Program.
On December 2nd, hundreds will call Hannaford Supermarkets to demand Milk with Dignity. Sign up here to attend a training on 12/1, then take a shift to contact supporters and help drive calls to Hannaford!
This fall saw the biggest actions yet in our efforts to invite Hannaford to join Milk with Dignity and expand the program’s human rights protections to hundreds more dairy workers. Following our 29-stop, 7-state “Dignity Tour,” farmworkers led hundreds through the streets of Portland in the Maine March on Hannaford, bringing the campaign to the grocery chain’s backyard.
Fifty dairy workers filled a bus to travel to Portland to lead the action. Winding through the rush hour streets of Portland, marchers stopped at a Hannaford store and the H.P. Hood plant, which bottles Hannaford-brand milk. Supporters came from all over New England, many after learning about the campaign during a Dignity Tour presentation. The action was covered by Maine’s press on T.V., the radio, and online.
The action also made an impact on Mainers who saw the march passing by, including one Hannaford shopper who emailed us later in the day: "I happened to be at Hannaford in Portland, Maine today. You had a protest going by at the time. The store tried to keep us all inside until you passed but we followed a man out who said they can't do that. Until tonight I had no idea of all this going on. I am disgusted. Thank you for opening my eyes about the [farmworkers’] conditions."
The Maine March on Hannaford concluded with a stirring speech from Migrant Justice leader Thelma Gómez:
I know for many of you this is your first time at a Migrant Justice event, your first time coming out, hitting the streets to stand in solidarity with your farmworker siblings. And now that you’re here I want to ask you to take this as as personal responsibility, to understand that this fight for human rights is now yours too, it is all of ours, and that we need to fight together to make sure that nobody’s rights are violated and that the farmworkers behind Hannaford-brand milk have their rights and dignity respected. And so if Hannaford CEO Mike Vail is asking himself “Why are people marching tonight?” It’s because we’re fighting for our basic human rights and that’s what’s motivating us to come from all over the region, to travel across states, here to Hannaford’s backyard to say “We want Milk with Dignity!”
Heed Thelma’s call to make farmworkers’ fight yours, too. Thank a farmworker today by joining the Milk with Dignity campaign, starting with volunteering to drive calls on next Thursday’s Hannaford call-in action.
Check out this selection of photos from the Maine March on Hannaford. Many thanks to the photographers: John Willis (www.jwillis.net), Eli Hill, and Geoff Carens
Marchers came from all over New England, meeting up in the Portland's Back Cove park
We marched to the Hannaford Supermarket across the street from the park
Supporters filled the Hannaford parking lot...
...as farmworker leader Yobani Moreno addressed the crowd. Yobani works on a Milk with Dignity farm and urged Hannaford to join and help expand the program to cover more farms and farmworkers
We hit the road again, marching through the campus of the University of Southern Maine
Farmworkers led a crowd of 250 marchers
A group of farmworkers scaled a bank to hang a banner off a railroad bridge spanning the march route
The march arrived at the H.P. Hood Plant, which bottles Hannaford's store-brand milk
Enrique Balcazar addressed the crowd outside the Hood Plant, sharing testimonies from Maine dairy workers who are working 7 days a week and living in housing without adequate heat
With the sun starting to set, we left the Hood plant and starting marching again
We marched down one of Portland's busiest streets as many Mainers were getting out of work, making sure that we would have high visibility
Keeping our spirits high, marchers chanted: "Get up, get down, Milk with Dignity is coming to town!"
We arrived back at the Hannaford store, making sure the company heard our message loud and clear
After a final rally at the Hannaford, we headed back to the park...
...where Thelma Gomez thanked the marchers and closed out the night with an invitation to home-cooked tamales.