USA: Dairy sector impacts on farmworkers in Vermont

In 2014, Vermont dairy workers in collaboration with Migrant Justice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), launched the Milk with Dignity Campaign in response to abuses of workers’ rights and fair housing in the dairy industry. The campaign aims to “build a movement of farmworkers and allies to call on major food companies to take responsibility for abuses of farmworkers’ rights in their supply chains”. The Milk with Dignity Program follows the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility model pioneered by the Fair Food Program.  Milk with Dignity includes five essential elements: (1) Farmworker-authored Code of Conduct; (2) Farmworker education; (3) Third party monitoring; (4) Economic relief; and (5) Legally-binding agreements.  All of these are developed and sustained by dairy workers.

In 2014, as part of the campaign, farmworkers created the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct, which defines essential workers’ and housing rights. To build the campaign, farmworkers also engaged in a study of the dairy industry examining the role of companies and pricing in driving farmers’ incomes down.  In 2014, farmworkers invited Ben & Jerry's to join the Milk with Dignity Program to commit to protecting the rights of the workers; the company joined in Jun 2015.

Timeline

  • Dec 2009: Farmworker José Obeth Santiz Cruz is killed in a workplace accident inspiring the creation of Migrant Justice.
  • May 2014: Dairy farmworkers hold a National Day of Action demanding Ben & Jerry's Stand for Dairy Farmworker's Rights.
  • Jun-Oct 2014: Vermont farmworkers launch the Milk with Dignity Campaign.
  • Jun 2015: Ben & Jerry’s joins Milk with Dignity Program to ensure farmworkers are treated with dignity and respect.