Farmworkers’ rights activists target Hannaford

SCORES OF PEOPLE GATHERED at the Hannaford supermarket in Middlebury on Nov. 2 as part of a statewide and nationwide action at some of the nation’s largest supermarkets. The goal is to get grocers like Hannaford to pay competitive prices for wholesale milk that supports migrant farmworkers that help produce it.

MIDDLEBURY / BRANDON — Activists gathered at the Hannaford grocery stores around the region, including around 20 in Brandon and many more in Middlebury — on Saturday, Nov. 2 to campaign for farm workers’ human rights. The event was organized by Migrant Justice and the Milk with Dignity campaign. There were at least 15 others throughout the state that day, all at Hannaford’s grocery stores.
Migrant Justice initiated what they called a “national day of action” at Hannaford stores because Hannaford has so far not joined their Milk with Dignity program, which promotes farm workers’ rights. With nearly 200 stores, Hannaford is one of the largest supermarket chains in the Northeast and an important buyer of dairy products.
The Milk with Dignity program is the only operating program, according to Migrant Justice, that can provide the company with a guarantee that is dairy products will be produced free from human rights violations. Migrant Justice is a human rights organization founded and led by immigrant farm workers in Vermont.
Alexandra Breyer, one of the organizers at the Brandon event, addressed the crowd to explain the purpose of the demonstration.
“We are one of 12 actions happening at Hannafords across the state in support of Migrant Justice and the Milk with Dignity Campaign. Migrant Justice is a farmworker led grassroots organization building the voice, capacity, and power of immigrant farm workers in Vermont and engaging community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights.,” she said.
“Today we are gathered here because farm workers have called for a national day of action inviting Hannaford to join the ground-breaking Milk with Dignity Program, a program that is transforming the dairy industry and ensuring farm workers’ rights… By joining the Milk with Dignity Program, Hannaford can take responsibility for ensuring human rights of workers in their dairy supply chain.”
Breyer explained that farmworkers created Milk with Dignity to provide “a solution to the systemic problems plaguing the dairy industry,” adding that the program “benefits companies by certifying that dairy products are sourced free from human rights abuses; it benefits farmers by providing a premium during a time of economic challenge, and it benefits workers by improving conditions and securing respect and dignity on the farm.”
“As one of the largest supermarket chains in the Northeast and an important buyer of dairy products from the region, Hannaford has the opportunity to create widespread change by joining the Milk with Dignity program,” Breyer said to the crowd. “Today we gather along with hundreds of others in similar actions which are taking place across New England and New York as we speak, to call on Hannaford to do the right thing: respond to farmworkers’ call and join Milk with Dignity!”
On October 2017, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. signed a contract with Migrant Justice to join the Milk with Dignity Program. Through the agreement, Breyer explained, Ben & Jerry’s “uses its market power to alleviate the economic pressure facing farm workers and farmers by paying a premium to its suppliers. Farms pass a portion of this premium through to qualifying workers in the form of a bonus. Ben & Jerry’s also requires its dairy suppliers to uphold minimum standards for labor and housing conditions.”
“Under the Milk with Dignity Program,” Breyer told the crowd, “farmers and farm workers are seeing a new day in the dairy industry… This is a win-win-win program: for workers, farmers, and companies alike.”
Extinction Rebellion Vermont, an activist group dedicated to addressing climate change, was also at the event.

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