From Dream to Reality: Milk with Dignity Breaks Ground on over 70 Dairy Farms in Vermont and New York

“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.

"I'm not scared at all": Mayday rally and worker organizing in the face of ICE's attacks

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!

Vermont “Dreamer” Joins Florida Farmworkers for 5 Day #FreedomFast in New York City

#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.”

 

#JoseLuisFreed: Mass campaign wins release of detained farmworker!

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.”

Vermont sides with Trump over human rights

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!

 

A new day for dairy: Milk with Dignity agreement signed! Watershed moment for workers’ rights in the dairy industry

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."

The agreement has already made it onto the pages of the New York Times!

October 5th: a Dozen HUMAN RIGHTS CAN'T WAIT Actions and Counting

10/3/17 Update: 

Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's sign historic agreement!

 

Vermont dairy workers came home this week following a 12-day speaking tour along the East coast.  Workers traveled to 11 cities -- from Burlington to Washington, D.C. -- to draw attention to human rights abuses in the dairy supply chain of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  In college lecture halls and community health centers, the farmworkers who put the cream in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream rallied students, workers, and faith leaders to call on the company to ensure fair working conditions by following through on their long-awaited commitment to the Milk with Dignity program on a national “Human Rights Can’t Wait” day of action planned for October 5th.

To join us at one of a dozen actions already planned for October 5th, or to plan your own, head over to our website!

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