Photo-report from the Milk with Dignity Month of Action: Week 4

On October 3rd, farmworkers and consumers picketed Hannaford Supermarkets for the fourth time in as many weeks, wrapping up a month of action demanding Milk with Dignity. The final action was the biggest and boldest of the month, with marchers passing by Hannaford’s security cordon to bring our demands directly to the store’s front door.

Are you fired up from the month of action? Volunteer to contact supporters and help drive calls to Hannaford demanding Milk with Dignity. The mass call-in day is Wednesday, 10/18: sign up today!

October 3rd marked six years to the day since Ben & Jerry’s became the first company to sign a Milk with Dignity agreement, launching this transformational human rights program. The date also marked four years of Hannaford refusing to join the program. During this time, farmworkers have documented and denounced horrific abuses in Hannaford’s dairy supply chain, while consumers, shareholders, faith communities, and others have urged the company to join Milk with Dignity. Yet rather than partner with workers in a solution proven to benefit companies, farmers, and farmworkers alike, Hannaford has cynically developed its own knock-off initiatives that mimic Milk with Dignity but fail to provide any of its protections.

Despite Hannaford’s resistance, workers and allies on the picket line were undeterred. After a spirited picket – our chants resonating with the rhythm of dozens of homemade drums – marchers made their way towards the Hannaford store. As in past weeks, Hannaford’s managers and hired security guards moved to block the march. This week, however, the crowd passed them by, peacefully proceeding to the store’s front door.

As managers barricaded the doors in a fruitless attempt to keep customers from hearing workers’ messages, dairy worker Hilario addressed the company:

I have worked on dairy farms for the past nine years. I have worked on farms where they yell at you, where they fire you without any reason, where they throw you out of your house in the middle of the night. I’ve seen how bosses intimidate workers, how they threaten to call police or immigration, how they make workers scared to speak up.

On the farm I’m at now, three of us share one room. There is no dignity, no privacy, no way to get proper rest. During the day the cockroaches eat our food, and at night the bed bugs suck our blood. This is how I’ve lived these last two years.

I want to ask Hannaford President Mike Vail: would you live like this? It’s past time for you to listen to workers and to take responsibility. It’s time to join Milk with Dignity.

Following Hilario’s powerful speech, Katie Harris – incoming President of the Vermont State Labor Council – addressed the crowd with a stirring call for solidarity among workers: 

I am here to express our unwavering support for Migrant Justice and the Milk with Dignity campaign and to their tireless efforts to bring Hannaford Supermarkets on board. The Milk with Dignity Program embodies the values of fairness and respect for all workers, to ensure that every worker is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

Their dedication to improving the lives of farmworkers is essential to the progress of the labor movement here in Vermont. 

We are stronger when we stand in solidarity with one another. When we are united as one single working class regardless of our differences. Our strength comes from our unity, creating true working class power. An injury to one is an injury to all.

We will not be silent while corporations rake in massive profits on the backs of workers laboring in dangerous conditions for poverty wages. It is time to hold Hannafords accountable for its supply chain and demand that they source their milk from suppliers complying with the human rights of dairy workers.

Solidarity forever!

Community activist and stalwart Migrant Justice ally Sylvia Knight spoke next. For years, Sylvia has organized in faith communities and neighborhoods to build support for farmworker rights. At Hannaford’s doorstep, she presented a petition to the company urging action:

Four years is too long for human rights abuses to continue in your dairy supply chain! 

It is time for you, Mike Vail, to sit down in person with Migrant Justice and truly listen to dairy workers as they reveal the human realities of bringing dairy products to Hannaford. 

It is time now to invite Migrant Justice to the table so that you can understand the proven system of accountability in the Milk with Dignity Program as the basis for its success. 

It is time now for Hannaford to understand that the Milk with Dignity was created for the dairy industry by those who do the hard work and know what they are talking about. 

It is time to stop relying on disingenuous strategems that provide no accountability and fail to prevent human suffering. It is time for Hannaford to accept that the Milk with Dignity Program is based on true accountability, and is the basis for a wider system in the larger dairy industry. 

It is time now for Hannaford to honor customers’ and shareholders’ calls for the company to join the Milk with Dignity Program in order to protect human rights and dignity in your supply chain.

It is time, now, for Hannaford to join Milk with Dignity!

The rally concluded, we gathered together for a home-cooked meal and a cake to celebrate the anniversary of the Milk with Dignity Program!

Check out the inspiring photos below from the final picket of the Milk with DIgnity Month of Action.

And as always, a huge thank you to photographer Terry Allen for the photos!