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Migrant Justice’s breakthrough with Ben & Jerry’s: churning up change

Partner story

Photo: © Migrant Justice

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company has signed an agreement with Migrant Justice (a partner Oak supports through Neo Philanthropy) to establish a programme called Milk with Dignity in the US state of Vermont. This will help ensure that workers on dairy farms are fairly paid and have access to a decent standard of housing, health and safety, and other fundamental rights in the workplace.

This partnership is a result of over two years of intense negotiations.

“This is a historic moment for dairy workers. Workers in the food supply chain are notoriously vulnerable to exploitation. The Milk with Dignity Program has the potential to completely transform current exploitative practice and prevent abuse and exploitation of migrant workers in the dairy sector, starting in Vermont and hopefully expanding to other states.”

– Medina Haeri, programme officer for Oak Foundation’s Issues Affecting Women Programme.

Under the Milk with Dignity Program, recruiters are banned from charging workers to obtain employment and employers may no longer hold workers’ wages to prevent them from changing jobs. In addition, work policies are made transparent and communicated to workers. Discrimination when hiring or in work conditions is forbidden. Modelled on the Fair Food Program, which provides protection and support for tomato-pickers in Florida, the Milk with Dignity Program will ensure the following is implemented:

  • dairy farms must meet standards of wages, housing, scheduling and health and safety codes for all employees, with market consequences if they do not work toward compliance;
  • farmworkers must be informed on their rights; and
  • the Milk with Dignity Standards Council will enforce the code of conduct.

Speaking at last month’s signing ceremony, Thelma Gomez, President of Migrant Justice’s Farmworker Coordinating Committee said: “This triumph is a victory for us, the women who labour on the farms. Milk with Dignity secures our human right to work free from abuse, harassment and violence.”

Every year on 25 November, many people and organisations around the world mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. We consider this great achievement of Migrant Justice a step in the direction towards stopping violence against women and men in the workplace.

Through our Issues Affecting Women Programme, we support organisations that disrupt patterns of violence and exploitation.

Oak Foundation congratulates Migrant Justice and its commitment to justice. We are excited to see what the future holds!

For more information about the Milk with Dignity agreement, click here.

For more information about Ben and Jerry’s, click here.

Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report 2017