BREAKING: Ben & Jerry’s commits to work with Vermont dairy workers toward agreement to adopt Milk with Dignity Program in company’s Northeast dairy supply chain!

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150+ march in the streets of Burlington in support of the Milk with Dignity Campaign on Saturday, June 20th

150+ march in the streets of Burlington in support of the Milk with Dignity Campaign on Saturday, June 20th

Ben & Jerry’s commits to serious talks with Migrant Justice, key elements of Milk with Dignity Program…

Chances look good that, soon, you will be able to enjoy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that is not only delicious, but fair, too! 

Over the last month, as the much-anticipated Milk with Dignity Day of Action approached, consumers in city after city announced that they would stand in solidarity with Vermont dairy workers on June 20th and demand true worker-driven social responsibility in Ben & Jerry’s dairy supply chain.  And now it is clear that Ben & Jerry’s was listening.  Just a few days ahead of last Saturday’s actions, the ice cream giant reached out to Migrant Justice, committing to negotiate an agreement to implement the Milk with Dignity Program on farms that provide dairy products to Ben & Jerry’s across the Northeast!

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The preliminary agreement specifically sets out the key elements of the Milk with Dignity Program, including:

  • Farmworker defined standards under a Code of Conduct that covers the human right to work with dignity and fair housing for all farm labor;
  • Farmworker and farmer education about workers’ rights under the defined Code of Conduct;
  • Third-party monitoring that provides insurance that the program is being implemented and enforced;
  • Economic relief in the form of premiums that benefit both farmworkers and farmers;
  • Legally-binding Agreement that defines the program.

Here is an excerpt from the Vermont workers’ press release announcing the breakthrough:

16 CITIES ACROSS THE NATION CALL ON BEN & JERRY’S TO ENSURE DAIRY WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE RESPECTED IN SUPPLY CHAIN

FARMWORKERS ANNOUNCE STEP FORWARD AS BEN & JERRY’S COMMITS TO NEGOTIATE PARTICIPATION IN “MILK WITH DIGNITY PROGRAM”

June 20, 2015 (Burlington, VT):  Over 40 dairy farmworkers and dozens of community supporters gathered at the Migrant Justice office, in the old north end of Burlington, preparing to march to Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop on Church St to call on the ice cream company to join a new worker’s rights initiative — the Milk with Dignity Program.  

Before the march got underway Migrant Justice organizer Abel Luna broke the exciting campaign news to the big crowd, “Just yesterday Ben & Jerry’s was in touch with Migrant Justice.  They say they’ve heard the voices and hardships of farmworkers and have committed to work with Migrant Justice to negotiate an agreement in order to adopt the Milk with Dignity Program into their Northeast supply chain!  

So today, we are gathered here to recognize this significant step forward.  At the same time we must continue to build a movement to demonstrate that people across the country are rallying to ensure that Ben & Jerry’s walks with workers all the way to the finish line by signing the Milk with Dignity Agreement — because our human rights cannot wait!”…

… Kim Erno, a Lutheran Pastor in the dairy region of Franklin County who works closely with farmworkers, joined the march and rally and shared, “It is amazing to see the moral power and tremendous success of this farmworker movement, that in a short time has clearly changed Vermont for the better. We are hopeful that Ben & Jerry’s will take the next big step on the road to human rights by negotiating a strong agreement that ensures dairy workers are respected in its supply chain.”

The Milk with Dignity Program is a Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) program created by Migrant Justice in Ben & Jerry’s home state of Vermont, designed to ensure dignified working and living conditions on dairy farms and based on the success of the Fair Food Program.

In the wake of this truly incredible news — which comes less than two months after the launch of the campaign on May 1st — consumers were ready to keep building on the infectious energy of the Milk with Dignity movement.  Not only did hundreds gather in Burlington, but, as promised, consumers in 16 other cities headed to their local Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops to support the workers who play a critical role in the creation of their favorite cold summer treat.  Check out photos from across the country and keep an eye out for the full report over at Migrant Justice’s website!

Down here in Immokalee, we have our own quick photo report from CIW members’ Ben & Jerry’s action!  Led by the CIW Women’s Group, about 25 farmworkers, their families and consumer allies headed out from Immokalee over to the neighboring Naples for a delegation and action.  The vans were full of not only people, but also with freshly painted cow- and ice cream-themed artwork.  

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Upon arriving in Naples, the protest itself was led by the children in the crew, who had created their own chants for the occasion (a number of which included significant amounts of mooing).

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Heading inside the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, CIW’s Leonel Perez explained to the manager that the crowd had come on behalf of the farmworker community in Immokalee to express their solidarity with their fellow farmworkers in Vermont’s dairy industry. 

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After patiently listening, the manager surprised the crew in saying that she was a Vermonter herself, and she thought Migrant Justice’s work was incredibly important.  She expressed her support of the Milk with Dignity Program, which would help the ice cream giant to directly address working conditions for the workers in their supply chain.  To top it off, the staff at Ben & Jerry’s insisted on giving free ice cream to the protesters (which, after the scorching heat outside, was most welcome!).  

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The Immokalee delegation walked away from the action with a van-load of happy kids and hopeful that Ben & Jerry’s would soon make a lasting commitment to protecting farmworkers’ human rights.  By building on the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model that has so successfully and fully transformed the Florida tomato industry, Vermont dairy workers are forging a new and better life for themselves and their families — and we hope that Ben & Jerry’s will be the first, of many, major retailers to join them.

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