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.

Read the full letter here or click "Read More" to learn about the differences between fair-washing programs like FTUSA and worker-driven programs like Milk with Dignity.

Hannaford Supermarkets: No More Empty Commitments!

While Hannaford profits off the pandemic, farmworkers in the company’s supply chain continue to be paid poverty wages. And in some cases, like that of farmworker Gustavo, they are not being paid at all. Gustavo worked on a farm in northern Vermont until he was recently fired without cause.

"All of a sudden the boss told me that I was out of a job and I had to leave. He didn’t pay me the $2,500 that he owed, he just said he would pay me tomorrow. But the next day I called him and he said the same thing. Days went by but my pay never came. Eventually he stopped answering his phone. I was scared to go to his house to ask for my wages because the farm is close to the border and I knew he could retaliate against me."

Eventually, Gustavo reached out to Migrant Justice and the organization supported him in filing a wage theft claim with the Department of Labor. With this support, Gustavo successfully recovered his stolen wages, but this outcome is the exception to the norm. 20% of Vermont dairy workers have experienced wage theft similar to what happened to Gustavo.

Migrant Justice invited Hannaford to join Milk with Dignity a full year ago, yet the company continues to sell milk from farms that exploit and abuse workers. Recently, Hannaford spokesperson Ericka Dodge told the press.

“We expect all our suppliers to follow the law and treat workers fairly. We require our suppliers to comply with standards of engagement — similar to a code of conduct — including provisions for: how they treat and compensate workers; maximum allowable working hours and days; premium pay for overtime; and workplace health and safety.”

Such “expectations” are meaningless for farmworkers like Gustavo when they aren’t backed up by action.

The only way for Hannaford to make their “standards” a reality is by joining the Milk with Dignity program. With a verified track record of over two years successfully improving conditions on farms across Vermont and New York – making abuses like wage theft a thing of the past – Milk with Dignity is the only way that a company can verify that their milk is produced free from human rights violations.

Take a minute to write to Ericka Dodge and her fellow Hannaford PR executives: tell them that like Gustavo, you are tired of empty promises. It is time for action!

Governor Announces $2 million for Immigrant Relief!

We are so excited to share this news: Vermont Governor Phil Scott announced his budget proposal on August 18th – and included $2 million for the Immigrant Families Coronavirus Relief Fund!

This is a huge step forward, but the fight isn't over yet. The Governor's proposal now heads to the legislature; over the next several weeks, state senators and representatives will debate the proposal before approving a final budget.

We need to tell legislators that the Governor's $2 million is a good start but isn't enough! The legislature must fully fund the Immigrant Families Coronavirus Relief Fund – $5 million in total – in the FY2021 budget.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are meeting jointly next week to hear public testimony on the Governor's budget proposal. Immigrant farmworkers will be testifying; will you join them?

Sign up here to testify over zoom on Thursday 8/27 5-6pm or Friday 8/29 1-2pm. Can't testify during those times? Follow the link to learn how to submit written testimony!

COVID Solidarity Fund: We've done our part, will the Governor do his?

Over the past three weeks, Migrant Justice distributed nearly $200,000 to over 400 members of Vermont’s immigrant farmworker community. We created our COVID Solidarity Fund to meet the needs of a community that has been unjustly excluded from federal relief during the pandemic.

hough we are proud of our ability to provide this necessary relief to so many, we also know that private donations are an inadequate response to a public health crisis. Our efforts could not reach all excluded workers in Vermont, and payments did not rise to the $1,200 that others received in stimulus funds from the federal government. ​

On Tuesday August 18th, Governor Phil Scott will announce his budget proposal for the remainder of fiscal year 2021 (beginning this October). He needs to hear from you that this is a priority for the state.

Durvi Martinez, ¡Presente!

Migrant Justice leader Durvi Martinez died on July 1st from COVID-19. Durvi contracted coronavirus soon after being deported from Vermont to Mexico. Durvi, a trans woman who had suffered severe violence before immigrating to the United States, was deported despite a pending asylum claim.

Before being deported, Durvi was part of the farmworker community in Vermont and a member of Migrant Justice. They were a brave and outspoken advocate for immigrant and LGBTQ rights. Durvi will be remembered as a loving and supportive friend.

Durvi was arrested by ICE in January, 2020 and spent three months detained in deplorable conditions. They were held in an all-male section of the prison, denied medication, and suffered severe weight loss. Durvi’s months in detention led to a weakened immune system that likely increased their susceptibility to the virus that ultimately took their life.

Durvi was in the midst of preparing an asylum application based on the horrific and systemic violence that they experienced as a trans person in Mexico. When the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in immigration detention centers in March, ICE chose to quickly deport Durvi, ignoring the asylum claim and failing to notify Durvi’s lawyer. Rather than releasing Durvi, ICE deported them to their death.

Migrant Justice unequivocally denounces Durvi’s unjust detention and deportation; we hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement responsible for their death. 

Durvi’s family must now pay significant hospital bills and funeral costs and support is urgently needed. Please donate to their family’s GoFundMe to help cover these expenses.

Hannaford profits soar: "Due to COVID-19, demand increased significantly"

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a mass economic upheaval. But while millions across the country have lost their jobs, and small businesses are facing bankruptcy, Hannaford is seeing its profits soar. In a recent financial statement, Hannaford’s parent company – the multinational supermarket conglomerate Ahold-Delhaize – wrote: “Due to COVID-19, demand … increased significantly,” adding that their stores in the U.S. “experienced approximately 34% comparable sales growth.” Over the last three months, their stock price has risen by over 25%.

And while Hannaford is making money hand over fist, its parent company just released its “Inaugural Human Rights Report.” The report makes bold claims about the company’s commitments to human rights, including in its supply chains, writing “If we find ... serious violations of occupational health and safety regulations, we will suspend our relationship with that supplier.”

Ahold-Delhaize’s human rights commitments should spur action. Click "Read More" to see the full story and learn how to take action!

La migra, la policía, la misma porquería

The past two weeks have brought about a national reckoning with white supremacy that is without precedent in this country’s history. The horrific police murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others have sparked an uprising that has spread from Minneapolis, to hundreds of communities in all fifty states, and now to countries around the world. This dynamic and evolving movement centers both an uncompromising denunciation of racist state violence and a radical affirmation that Black Lives Matter.

From our vantage point on dairy farms in rural Vermont, Migrant Justice is in some ways far removed from the urban rebellions propelling the movement forward. Yet in our conversations over the past two weeks, one thing has stood out: immigrant farmworkers in Vermont identify with Black people victimized by police violence and feel a deep kinship with the Movement for Black Lives.

“Our fight against racist discrimination must be unending. We stand together for our collective rights as human beings, demanding respect and equality for all. Without justice there can be no peace. Black Lives Matter!” -Elizabeth, Farmworker Coordinating Committee

Click "Read More" for the full post!
 

Call your legislator: Vermont Coronavirus Relief Fund for immigrant families

"Today they call us essential, but what happens when this ends? Do we go back to being invisible? Or will we be seen as human beings?" -Angel, Vermont dairy worker

Last month, the federal government began issuing relief checks to individuals and families in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most adults in the country received $1,200, with additional payments of $500 per child. Though these amounts are a drop in the bucket for many struggling families, the concept is a good one: direct payments to people in a time of crisis to reduce suffering and forestall economic recession.

Millions of immigrant families, however, have been unjustly left out of these relief payments. At a time when many immigrants – including Migrant Justice members sustaining Vermont’s dairy industry – are being deemed “essential workers,” this exclusion is particularly cruel.

Vermont now has an opportunity to step up where the federal government has let workers down. We call on Vermont to create a coronavirus relief fund to issue direct payments to every state resident who has been unfairly excluded from federal aid due to immigration status.

Over the past weeks, we have built a coalition of supporting organizations, testified in multiple committees, and spoken with dozens of legislators about this proposal. Many are supportive, but for our elected officials to move this proposal forward, they need to hear from you!

On May 20th, Governor Phil Scott announced a $400 million COVID relief package for the state. It includes $50 million to bail out the dairy industry but no direct support for dairy workers – or any other immigrant workers – who have been left out of all aid packages to date. This is unacceptable.

Vermonters, please take a moment today to call your legislators and tell them that the state has a responsibility to support those that Congress and the Trump administration are leaving behind. We are calling upon Vermont lawmakers to:

  • Create a Coronavirus Relief Fund to issue payments to all immigrant families excluded from federal relief due to immigration status

  • Relief payments should be the same as federal stimulus payments: $1,200 per adult and $500 per child

  • Work with Migrant Justice and affected communities to develop and implement the fund

Find your representatives and senators on the state legislature’s website. Just select your town and then click on their names to get a phone number.

If they don’t answer, be sure to leave a message with your name and town where you live. And please note: not all legislators provide phone numbers; if the number given is (802) 828-2228 (the statehouse direct line), the call will not go to your representative or senator. In that case, send them an email with the same message.

Please call today on this crucial and urgent issue!

On International Workers Day. farmworkers lead the call for a People’s Bailout

On May 1st, people around the world marked International Workers Day during a time of crisis. While millions of workers are newly unemployed, millions more are being ordered to put their lives in danger by working in unsafe conditions. These workers are deemed “essential” but treated as disposable. At the same time, governmental responses are enriching corporations and billionaires but failing to protect workers, or – in the case of immigrant workers –  leaving them out entirely.

In Vermont, Migrant Justice put out a call for car caravan rallies around the state, to show solidarity with essential workers and lift up our collective demands for a “People’s Bailout” that puts people above profit. Dozens of labor and community groups responded, organizing three actions across the state. In Burlington, the Upper Valley, and Brattleboro, hundreds mobilized in car caravans, far exceeding all expectations. These mobile rallies allowed people to come together in solidarity while following health guidelines and maintaining social distancing.

Show your solidarity by donating to the "Undocumented Workers Fund"

This past weekend, tens of millions of people across the United States received relief checks from the federal government in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Farmworkers in Vermont – along with millions of immigrants around the country – did not.

While the government has classified farmworkers as “essential workers.” it continues to treat them as disposable. As farmworker leader Enrique Balcazar was quoted in a recent column in The Guardian:

“We're in a country where people want our labor but don’t care about our lives. Our human rights have been denied, but our work is being deemed essential. The injustice of the system is laid bare.”

Migrant Justice is partnering with national immigrant rights organization Movimiento Cosecha’s “Undocumented Worker Fund” to raise and distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to immigrants excluded from federal relief. Money is already going out to immigrant families affected by the current crisis.

If you received a relief check and are able, we urgently ask you to share those funds with your immigrant neighbors. Please donate today to the Undocumented Worker Fund.

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