TODAY: Vermont dairy workers, consumer allies march on Ben & Jerry’s factory!

Marchers will deliver powerful letter from national human rights organizations including ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Columbia University Law School Human Rights Clinic, and Human Rights Watch, calling on Ben & Jerry’s to sign Milk with Dignity agreement without further delay!

Show YOUR support for Vermont’s Migrant Justice by joining the photo petition on social media today!

As dawn broke this morning, dairy workers from Vermont — accompanied by their families, local consumer allies, and human rights leaders from across the country, including the CIW’s Lucas Benitez — kicked off a 13-mile march from the Vermont State House in Burlington to the iconic Ben & Jerry’s factory in the rural rolling hills outside of the city.  

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Ben & Jerry’s public commitment to join the Milk with Dignity Program, a Worker-driven Social Responsibility initiative that follows the blueprint of worker participation and meaningful market-based enforcement established by the CIW’s Fair Food Program.  And yet, in the two years since that commitment, there have been countless hours of discussion between workers and the ice cream giant, but no agreement. 

By taking to the streets, Migrant Justice and their consumer allies are telling Ben & Jerry’s that it is time, finally, to honor their promise to Vermont’s dairy workers and finalize their agreement.

Thelma “Lupita” Gomez from Migrant Justice (bottom right) leading the way in March’s Parade for Fair Food in St. Petersburg, FL

As scores of marchers wind their way towards Ben & Jerry’s, dairy workers are calling on all consumers of conscience across the country for support.  Here is their call to action:

Now on the front page of popular food magazine Civil Eats, Kike’s essay charts his path from coming to Vermont at 17 years old to join his father on a dairy farm, to marching on the Ben & Jerry’s factory tomorrow, to demand that the company make good on its two-year-old commitment to join dairy worker’s Milk with Dignity program.

“Milk with Dignity will bring about a new day for dairy workers. Ben & Jerry’s is just the beginning. Company by company, we the workers—whether parents working to provide for their children, or youth dreaming of a brighter future—will transform this industry and win our human rights.”

Join Kike and other dairy workers in tomorrow’s historic 13-mile march, from the Vermont State House to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory.

Can’t make it to the march? You can help from wherever you are by joining our photo petition!  

1) Take a photo of yourself holding a sign telling Ben & Jerry’s to join the Milk with Dignity Program, with a note about who you are, where you’re from, and why this is important to you.

2) Post it on Facebook or tweet it out, using #MilkWithDignity, @MigrantJustice, and @BenandJerrys (Twitter) / @Ben & Jerry’s (Facebook)

Easy, right?  Let’s get these photos coming in!

At the culmination of today’s march, Ben & Jerry’s will be receiving a letter signed by many widely-respected, national human and civil rights organizations and academic institutions, including the CIW, the ACLU, the Columbia University Law School Human Rights Clinic, Human Rights Watch, and others.  

Here is a brief excerpt of the powerful letter, which serves to lay out in no uncertain terms the important decision before the ice cream giant:

Jostein Solheim
Chief Executive Officer
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. 30 Community Drive
South Burlington, VT 05403

June 7, 2017

Dear Mr. Solheim,

As a group of civil society organizations dedicated to the full realization of human rights in the United States, we are writing to urge you to protect workers’ rights by honoring your June 2015 commitment to enter into a legally binding agreement to join the Milk with Dignity Program. Protecting workers’ rights is a key tenet of Ben & Jerry’s corporate mission, and Milk with Dignity realizes this commitment. […]

[…]  The Milk with Dignity Program exemplifies Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR), an innovative approach led by workers to protect and promote workers’ human rights while fostering change in supplier culture and supporting long-term sustainability on farms. Under the WSR model, buyers in a supply-chain agree to only purchase a product from suppliers that agree to, and are in good standing with, a rights-based code of conduct designed by and for workers. Milk with Dignity, like other WSR programs, is defined by three key features that distinguish it from corporate-led initiatives. Milk with Dignity: (1) involves workers in drafting, designing, and monitoring the program; (2) includes independent and continuous monitoring mechanisms; and (3) ensures compliance through legally binding enforcement mechanisms with concrete market consequences for employers that fail to make improvements. […]

[…]  In summary, WSR models overcome the shortcomings of alternative approaches in protecting workers’ basic dignity and human rights to fair working conditions, health, and safety. Moreover, WSR programs have already been successfully implemented elsewhere. The Fair Food Program, established by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the tomato industry in Florida is a powerful example of a regime with full worker participation in monitoring and enforcement that delivers real accountability for workers. U.N. experts on business and human rights praised the Fair Food Program as a “groundbreaking model” for promoting labor rights in partnership with farmworkers, providing a model for protecting human rights in corporate supply chains that “ensures a substantive role for the rights holders themselves.”15 The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons applauded the Fair Food Program as an “international benchmark” in preventing modern slavery.16

The Milk with Dignity Program promises similar transformational reforms for the dairy industry in Vermont, and presents a valuable opportunity for Ben & Jerry’s to establish itself as an industry leader. We thus call on Ben & Jerry’s to enter into a legally binding agreement to make the Milk with Dignity Program operational.

You can read the detailed letter in full here.

Don’t forget to join the photo petition today to support the march!

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