"nobody else spoke up because they were afraid..." This Mayday, show solidarity with farmworkers!
Posted Sat, 04/17/2021 - 4:54pm
Three years ago, Primitivo began working on a farm in central Vermont. “I had a friend who was already there,” he said. “He told me they needed someone, so I decided to take the job.” He quickly came to regret the decision.
“The boss told me she would pay me $8.50 an hour. That’s what new workers made,” he recently recounted. At the time, Vermont’s minimum wage was $10.50. “I told the boss that I was an experienced worker and if that was the pay I would turn around and leave. Finally she agreed to pay 10 an hour.”
Even with the higher pay, the conditions were unbearable.
I came to the farm during the winter. There wasn’t enough heat in the house and you had to shower with cold water. The boss wouldn’t put a space heater in because she didn’t want to pay the electric bill.
The hours were awful – three shifts a day. And you didn’t have enough time to rest between shifts. Just all work and no rest. By the end, it was the heavy workload that made me decide to speak up.
I talked to the boss and asked for a change in the schedule. She got upset and told me if I didn’t like it, I could leave. And she threw me out then and there. She sent another worker to tell me to pack my bags. I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t have anywhere to go. She didn’t even want to pay me, I had to insist. And nobody else spoke up because they were afraid the same would happen to them.
The farm where Primitivo worked sells to a nearby plant that bottles Hannaford-brand milk. In supermarkets all around New England, Hannaford is selling milk that is the product of these conditions: subminimum wages, round-the-clock work, inhumane housing, and retaliation against workers who speak up.
Primitivo is not alone. Farmworkers in Hannaford’s dairy supply chain have been speaking out, demanding that the company take responsibility for stamping out these profound human rights abuses. Workers have provided Hannaford with a solution for its problem; by joining Milk with Dignity, Hannaford can protect farmworkers and ensure that its customers can buy milk free from human rights violations.
This Mayday farmworkers will rally alongside teachers, state employees, and workers from across Vermont in an event organized by a large coalition of labor, racial justice, and climate justice organizations. Following a solidarity rally in front of the Statehouse, we will head together to a nearby Hannaford let the grocery chain know that we demand Milk with Dignity!
(Can’t make it to the rally? Check out our campaign toolkit for ways to support from afar!)
When Primitivo was fired for protesting inhumane conditions, there was no one to speak up for him. Let's make sure that no other worker suffers alone. This Mayday we join together to fight for farmworkers and workers' rights everywhere.