Historic Breakthrough in Dairy Business
Ben & Jerry’s and Migrant Justice have reached an historic agreement to implement the worker-driven Milk with Dignity (MD) Program in Ben & Jerry’s Northeast dairy supply chain. Over the past two years, the parties have worked tirelessly to accomplish their shared goal to bring together farmworkers, farmers, and dairy buyers to ensure just and dignified working conditions in Ben & Jerry’s northeast dairy supply chain. Now, farmworkers and Ben & Jerry’s are ready to go, pivoting to a new partnership to implement this groundbreaking, worker-led initiative. Work will begin this fall on a multi-year plan with the goal of eventually sourcing 100% of Ben & Jerry’s milk through the MD Program and a holistic dairy program that addresses all key aspects of dairy farming.
Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Program, modeled after the world-renowned Fair Food Program, enlists the resources of food industry leaders, such as Ben & Jerry’s, to provide a premium for dairy ingredients to participating farmers who agree to work towards compliance with the labor standards in the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct. The premium paid to farmers helps offset farms’ costs of compliance with the Code, rewards farms that comply, and allows farmers to pass-through a portion of the premium as a bonus paid to workers. In the Milk with Dignity Program, compliance on the farm is achieved through a unique partnership and problem-solving approach among farmers, farmworkers, and the Milk with Dignity Standards Council (MDSC). The MDSC is an independent non-profit that works with farmers and farmworkers to understand, participate in, and achieve compliance with labor standards in the Code.
A group of farmworkers, supporters and Ben & Jerry’s employees stood outside the company’s flagship store on Vermont’s iconic Church Street, where farmworker organizer and former dairy worker Enrique Balcazar shared, “This is an historic day for dairy workers. We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now, we move forward towards a new day for us dairy workers. This is a huge step forward for us and for all workers and we appreciate that Ben & Jerry’s has taken a leadership role to source its milk in a way that improves working and housing conditions on dairy farms.”
“This is a ground breaking, historic moment not only for two organizations, but most importantly for the hard working dairy farm workers who are a critical part of our community.” Solheim acknowledged how key the farmers and cooperative are to making the next steps of program implementation possible, sharing that this program will result in a win-win for all involved. “Vermont’s farmers can continue to set the tone for the dairy industry. Today, whether it is for animal care, environmentally sound operations, and now, enhanced labor practices, Vermont’s farming community will continue to lead the nation. We are proud of our partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative and these farmers have our full commitment. We recognize the many challenges facing the Vermont dairy farmers today, and we need to do what we can collectively to support the farmers moving forward. We can’t do this without them.”
Both organizations put pen to paper at the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in their shared hometown of Burlington, Vermont. The plan now is to put the buyer’s agreement into practice by recruiting farmers from St. Albans Cooperative to join the Program as soon as possible. Ben & Jerry’s has committed to work towards the goal of sourcing 100% of its dairy ingredients through the Milk with Dignity Program over a period of years. Moving forward, The MD Program will be one of the focused “pillars” of Ben & Jerry’s new dairy sourcing to address the full farm ecosystem.
For more information about Migrant Justice, Milk with Dignity, or Ben & Jerry’s follow the links below:
Migrant Justice: http://migrantjustice.net/
Milk with Dignity: https://migrantjustice.net/milk-with-dignity
Ben & Jerry’s: www.benjerry.com/
About Migrant Justice
Our mission is to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights. We gather the farmworker community to discuss and analyze shared problems and to envision collective solutions. Through this ongoing investment in leadership development, members deepen their skills in community education and organizing for long-term systemic change. From this basis our members have defined community problems as a denial of rights and dignity and have prioritized building a movement to secure these fundamental human rights to: 1) Dignified Work and Quality Housing; 2) Freedom of Movement and Access to Transportation; 3) Freedom from discrimination; 4) Access to Health Care.
About Ben & Jerry’s
As an aspiring social justice company, Ben & Jerry’s believes in a greater calling than simply making a profit for selling its goods. The company produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream, yogurt and sorbet using high-quality ingredients. Ben & Jerry’s incorporates its vision of Linked Prosperity into its business practices in a number of ways including a focus on values-led sourcing. In 2015 the company completed its transition to using entirely non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients by source as well as to fully source Fairtrade-certified ingredients wherever possible, which benefits farmers in developing countries. Ben and Jerry’s products are distributed in 35 countries in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, franchise Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops, restaurants and other venues. Ben & Jerry’s, a Vermont corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community. Ben & Jerry’s became a certified B Corp (Benefit Corporation) in 2012. The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation’s employee-led grant programs totaled $2.5MM in 2016 to support economic and social justice, environmental restoration, and peace through understanding. For the inside scoop on Ben & Jerry’s visit www.benjerry.com.
Ben & Jerry’s
Laura Peterson, Public Relations Manager
Sean Greenwood, PR Director