Hannaford shuts out workers while boasting double-digit growth

On February 15th, a farmworker delegation visited the Hannaford Supermarkets corporate headquarters in Scarborough, ME. For weeks, Migrant Justice had let the company know about our planned visit and requested a sit-down meeting. When we arrived, workers were met with security guards and excuses. Hannaford kept the doors shut and refused to meet with farmworkers.

Hannaford is trying to hide from its responsibility, but consumers aren’t fooled. The same day of the farmworker delegation, nearly 700 Milk with Dignity supporters called Hannaford President Mike Vail to express their solidarity with dairy workers. This was the largest call-in day ever – nearly double the number of calls that Hannaford has received on any previous day!

As farmworkers knocked on their front door and consumers flooded their phone lines, Hannaford’s priorities were elsewhere. On the same day, Hannaford’s parent company, Ahold-Delhaize, released its latest financial statement. The takeaway? Sales and profits continue to rise, squeezing shoppers and suppliers while funneling profits to company shareholders.

The financial report gloats that “Hannaford led brand performance with double-digit comparable sales growth.” Sales and profits grew this past quarter, even as the report recognizes the “double-digit inflation levels not witnessed in 40 years.” 

Hannaford profits are converted to stock buybacks and generous dividends, further enriching investors. Ahold is proposing a 10% increase in dividends – the amount paid out to each stockholder – and $1 billion in stock buybacks, intending to push the share price even higher. This largesse at a time of record inflation shows exactly where company priorities lie.

And meanwhile, the workers on farms supplying Hannaford-brand milk labor around the clock for subminimum wages, live in inhumane conditions, and suffer horrific injuries. Workers who lodge complaints through Hannaford’s hotline are ignored or dismissed.

The day before encountering closed doors at Hannaford’s headquarters, the Migrant Justice delegation spent a day visiting dairy farms in Maine. One worker shared a harrowing testimony:

I had worked on the farm for nearly a year. I was working between 73 and 80 hours per week, only getting a day off once every two weeks. When the boss got mad he would yell at us and break things, but I stayed because I needed work.

In January I decided to ask for a raise. I was paid $12.25 per hour when the minimum wage around here is $13.80. The boss told me no, so I told him that I was going to leave.

He started to yell and swear at us. My dad and I were eating at the kitchen table and he threw food at us. He grabbed my cell phone and hit me with it. He pushed my dad against the refrigerator.

The boss fired my dad and told us that he wouldn’t pay us for the final days that we were owed. He owes me and my dad $1,200 each for more than a week of work.

While Hannaford lines investor pockets, the supermarket giant continues to shut out the farmworkers who make their business possible. But workers aren’t going anywhere, and consumers are increasingly taking note of Hannaford’s abuses – and demanding Milk with Dignity.

(And keep your eye out for an upcoming announcement on the next big step in the Hannaford campaign: an action tour around the northeast in April! Do you want to host an organizing meeting and action in your town? Let us know!)