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. 

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.

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.

Click "Read More" to get the full story!