Eli Calvo is a Vermont dairy worker and member of Migrant Justice. He was profiled and detained by Border Patrol agents at a gas station near his farm. Take action to demand freedom for Eli!
“Milk with Dignity has been the dream of farmworkers in Vermont for many years. It’s a path forward for us to have our voices recognized and to have our rights and dignity recognized,” proclaimed Vermont farmworker spokesperson Enrique Balcazar at a jubilant press conference last week announcing the progress of this new worker-driven social responsibility program.
After years of negotiations culminated in an agreement between Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry’s last October, all farmers in Ben & Jerry’s Northeast dairy supply chain are now required to join the Milk with Dignity (MD) Program. But what does this mean on the ground for workers, farmers and consumers?
The MD Program is proving to be exactly what workers predicted--a win-win-win for farmworkers, farmers, and consumers.
Alejandro Hernandez is free and back in Vermont! After nearly a month in detention, he has been reunited with his wife and community. His liberation is due to the thousands who marched, rallied, and wrote letters denouncing his arrest and demanding his freedom.
Alejandro was pulled out of his car by armed undercover agents and arrested in front of his wife. Sign the petition to release Alejandro back to his family and community! Click "Read More" for more information.
With Mayday -- International Worker's Day -- approaching, talk of labor struggle is everywhere. Teachers have gone on strike across the country, demanding fair wages and adequate funding for students. 5,000 Jet Blue flight attendants voted to unionize last week. And women workers across industries are leading the fight to change the norms that have long excused and condoned sexual harassment.
These struggles for economic justice are not without their costs. Immigrant farmworkers in Vermont, along with immigrants everywhere, continue to be terrorized by a brutal regime of widespread arrests and mass deportation. Arrests of farmworkers by ICE and Border Patrol are a weekly occurrence in Vermont, as the deportation agencies pick off workers on farms, at stores, and on the streets.
Despite the high cost, Migrant Justice leaders are proving Frederick Douglass' maxim that without "struggle there is no progress." Click to Read More!
#TimesUpWendys: Put an End to Sexual Violence in the Fields
For generations, farmworker women have endured some of the most hostile working conditions this country has to offer. Farmworker women have referred to the constant barrage of catcalls, groping, and sexual assault as “our daily bread” in the fields. In one study, four out of every five farmworker women reported experiencing sexual harassment or violence at work.
But in 2011, after nearly two decades of hard-fought organizing with consumers across the country, farmworker women and men with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) launched the Fair Food Program (FFP) and, within a few short years, put an end to sexual assault and other human rights violations in the $650 million Florida tomato industry. Today, the FFP extends to seven states and three crops, and all the major fast-food companies – McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, KFC, and Chipotle – are on board.
All except Wendy’s.
For years now, Wendy’s has totally ignored Florida farmworkers’ and consumers’ persistent calls to join the world-renowned Fair Food Program and join the rest of the fast food industry in protecting the fundamental human rights of farmworkers in its supply chain. So in response, yesterday Florida farmworkers and allies across the nation kicked off a 5-day “Freedom Fast”. Right now, Migrant Justice member and dreamer Martha Herrera is in New York City outside the hedge fund office of Nelson Peltz, Wendy's largest shareholder and board chair, fasting in solidarity with dozens of Florida farmworkers and fair food allies demanding Wendy's join the Fair Food Program.
Martha reflects on her motivation, “As a woman, as a member of Migrant Justice, and as a dreamer I am participating in the #FreedomFast for 5 days, to unite our voice with my compañeras from the Tomato industry. Something that really impacted me when I visited Immokalee was to see how the women’s community is so strong and for me this deeply inspired me because in most industries we women have no voice and no power.”
Jose Luis Cordova Herrera was freed today following a mass community campaign calling for his release. Nearly 1,500 people -- including Vermont’s congressional delegation -- wrote to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking for freedom for the 40-year-old farmworker and father of three.
Upon his release from the prison where he spent nearly three weeks, Jose Luis reflected: "I want to thank everyone who supported me while I was locked up. Being in prison you have a lot of time to think, to meditate, and I came to realize how important it is to be part of an organization like Migrant Justice. My freedom is proof of the power of an organized community."
Citing Jose Luis' history as a dairy worker in Vermont and his lack of criminal record, Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Representative Welch wrote in a February 16th letter: “It is unclear why ICE would consider Mr. Cordova Herrera an enforcement priority.”
On Tuesday December 12th, a group of law enforcement officials voted to weaken Vermont's Fair and Impartial Policing policy (FIP), opening the door to more discrimination and police collaboration with Trump's deportation agents.
The vote took place just as new details are emerging from a traffic stop over the summer that resulted in the immigration detention of two farmworkers, a father and son.
A deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department is seen on video calling Border Patrol to the scene after pulling over a dairy worker for lack of vehicle registration and learning that he is a Mexican national. Throughout the 45 minute ordeal, sheriff's deputies offer extensive support to the deportation agents, who use racial slurs to refer to the immigrant workers. Months after the stop, the two farmworkers continue to be held in immigration detention pending their deportation.
Despite extensive local and national coverage of the issue, over a thousand emails to law enforcement and elected officials, and the firm opposition of Migrant Justice members and allies at Tuesday's meeting, the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council voted to water down the FIP by creating new loopholes to allow for discriminatory treatment.
Though Tuesday's vote was a blow to human rights, the struggle for equal treatment in Vermont continues. The new policy won't go into effect until March 1st, 2018, and Migrant Justice will continue to fight to ensure that Vermont law enforcement stay out of the business of deportation. Stay tuned for next steps!
On Tuesday October 3, farmworker leaders from Migrant Justice and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s jointly signed the Milk with Dignity agreement. The legally-binding contract establishes Ben & Jerry’s as the first company in the dairy industry to implement the worker-driven human rights program. This momentous occasion marks the beginning of a new day for dairy, one that provides economic relief and support to struggling farm owners, in the form of a premium paid by Ben & Jerry’s, while ensuring dignity and respect for farmworkers.
Before putting his signature on the document, Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique “Kike” Balcazar spoke to those assembled:
“This is an historic moment for dairy workers. We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now we move forward towards a new day for the industry. We appreciate Ben & Jerry’s leadership role and look forward to working together to implement a program that ensures dignified housing and fair working conditions on dairy farms across the region. And though this is the first, it won’t be the last agreement of its kind."