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

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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.

Read More for the full story and to take action!

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.

"...without us there is no production"

The COVID-19 crisis is causing us to reevaluate the meaning of "essential work," as many develop a deeper appreciation for the jobs needed to sustain, nurture, and care for one another. At the same time, the pandemic is laying bare a deeper, long-standing human rights crisis: many of the workers taking care of the rest of society lack the rights and protections to sufficiently take care of themselves.

As farmworker Gregorio put it: "Without us, there is no production. We demand more recognition for dairy workers."

While we find new ways to advance the Milk with Dignity campaign and win long-term dignity and human rights for dairy workers, we are also calling on supporters to take immediate action responding to emerging needs.

Take these three actions today!

  1. Sign this petition to governors and federal representatives demanding full labor protections for front line food workers (from the Food Chain Workers Alliance)
  2. Vermonters, let your local representatives know that workers must be the focus of the state's short- and long-term response to this crisis (from the Vermont AFL-CIO)
  3. Immigrants in detention are going on hunger strike to protest unsanitary conditions, while ICE is requesting an additional $800 million to keep incarcerating immigrants during this crisis. Tell Congress to #FreeThemAll (from Detention Watch Network)

The Dignity Tour Full Schedule 3/8 - 3/22

**3/16 Update: The Dignity Tour is moving online! In-person presentations have been suspended, but folks can join us in a webinar on Monday 3/23 at 6pm. Register today!**

From March 8th through March 22nd, Migrant Justice will embark on a 14-day speaking tour, taking us to 7 states for a total of 24 presentations. The Dignity Tour will bring us to audiences around the region to share the success story of the Milk with Dignity program and the “new day for human rights in dairy.”

The Dignity Tour will also build support for the campaign calling on supermarket giant Hannaford to join the Milk with Dignity program and take responsibility for the rights and well-being of the farmworkers behind Hannaford-brand milk. We will travel to every state where Hannaford has stores, including in the company’s backyard of Maine.

Throughout the two weeks of the Dignity Tour, Migrant Justice will connect with audiences in high schools and colleges, at churches and synagogues, in libraries, community centers, health clinics, and general stores. At each stop, the public will hear from farmworkers and organizers about the incredible human rights transformation underway and will be able to make their voices heard, telling Hannaford that it’s time to get with the program!

Read more to open the map of tour stops and find the full list of presentations!

“I knew I wasn’t alone:” Workers picket wage theft and violence at Goodrich Farm

“When I saw them coming at me, I felt scared. But when I looked around I lost my fear. I knew I wasn’t alone.”

Saturday morning, farmworker José Ramos marched down a back road in Addison County at the head of 50 fellow workers, neighbors, students and faith leaders. When the crowd arrived at the notorious Goodrich Farm -- long known among workers as a farm that rips off and mistreats workers -- the owners came charging at the marchers, pushing people and shouting obscenities.

For José, the scene was a flashback. Earlier in the week, he had gone to Goodrich Farm, his former employer, to collect his final paycheck.  Accompanied by a Migrant Justice organizer, José found his former boss in the barn and asked for the $600 he is owed. In response, she forcefully shoved him out of the barn and slammed the door in his face. A supervisor also assaulted the Migrant Justice organizer. The farm owner screamed at the two to leave, threatening to call the police. Terrified, José ran from the farm. As he drove off, he was followed by one of the farmers.

On Saturday, José felt the same fear rising in him again as the bosses came rushing toward him. But this time, something was different. His community had his back. José climbed on to the bed of a pickup, looked out on the crowd, and addressed the farm owners.

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Deported but not Defeated: Chiri Files Complaint with Human Rights Commission

In December we shared the news of the Border Patrol detention of farmworker Luis Ulloa, known to friends as Chiri. He was turned over to immigration agents after being detained by the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department while a passenger in a car pulled over for speeding.

Following this unjust detention, Chiri’s community sprang to his defense, rallying in front of the Sheriff’s Department offices to demand #JusticeForChiri. Many of you called or wrote to the sheriff decrying this abuse of power and demanding accountability for this clear violation of the department’s own “Fair and Impartial Policing” policy.

We are sad to report that due of the actions of the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department, Chiri has been deported to Mexico, separated from his family, friends and community in Vermont. Chiri has been deported, but he is still fighting to defend his rights and to ensure that what happened to him will not happen to anyone else. Yesterday he filed a discrimination complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission. The state agency will investigate the claim and make a ruling on whether or not the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department violated Vermont law in its treatment of Chiri.

On MLK Day, Announcing the "Dignity Tour"

In the final act of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to Memphis to support striking Black sanitation workers. Bolstering workers’ demands for a fair wage and dignified treatment, King delivered his “All Labor Has Dignity” speech, affirming: “Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this.”

Today on Martin Luther King Day, inspired by the legacy of MLK and the Black freedom struggle, farmworkers are announcing the Dignity Tour. In mid-March, Migrant Justice will hit the road for a two-week speaking tour, presenting to audiences throughout the northeast to build support for the Milk with Dignity campaign.

We are continuing to call on Hannaford supermarkets to recognize the dignity and humanity of the dairy workers behind Hannaford brand milk. Earlier this month, farmworkers sent Hannaford CEO Mike Vail a letter with 3,500 signatures urging the company to listen to workers’ demands.

Breaking: Migrant Justice settles discrimination lawsuit with Vermont DMV

January 15, 2020, Montpelier, VT  Human rights organization Migrant Justice and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles have reached a settlement in a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit. The Vermont-based farmworker group, accompanied by its legal team, announced the settlement Wednesday in a press conference in the state’s capital.

“With this settlement, the state of Vermont makes good on its promise to guarantee access to driver’s licenses without discrimination,” said Migrant Justice leader and suit plaintiff Enrique Balcazar. “Though justice delayed is justice denied for the many whose lives have been ruined by the DMV’s harmful collaboration with ICE, we firmly believe that this settlement will put an end to that abuse of power going forward. Vermont’s immigrant community can now safely exercise this hard-fought right.”

Read more for the full press release!