Migrant Justice’s recent release of a timeline documenting past violations of unsafe conditions, wage theft, and inhumane housing for Vermont farmworkers are as shocking today as they were when they were first reported. Even a single incident is serious and unacceptable and must be treated as such. We followed up with various Vermont State officials and the St Albans Cooperative management to understand the context of each allegation and the resolution to each one. We know that at the state level and at the Cooperative we source from, all of the stakeholders are working to achieve safe and dignified conditions for dairy farmworkers. Ben & Jerry’s is deeply committed to the ensuring that all of those who work in our supply chain have safe and dignified working conditions, which is why, in 2015, we committed to implement the Milk with Dignity program on dairy farms that supply our company.
While Ben & Jerry’s has been working to building strong labor standards with our St. Albans Cooperative dairy supply chain for many years, our labor standards within our Caring Dairy program are not worker-driven social responsibility. We appreciate that Migrant Justice has brought forward the importance of a worker-driven program to protect farmworkers’ rights and working conditions. We understand the distinction that the labor standards within our corporate-led program, while robust and creating positive results, are not worker-driven. That’s why we’ve been at the table with Migrant Justice for the past two years working on the details of how to operationalize the Milk with Dignity program across our dairy supply chain. Our intention is that The Milk with Dignity program would replace the labor standards that were embedded in the Caring Dairy program.
We are as disappointed as Migrant Justice with the amount of time this process has taken. We’ve invested much staff time, energy, and effort, all in good faith, to reach an agreement with Migrant Justice. Contrary to the current public narrative, we never left the table in our discussions with Migrant Justice to resolve the Buyer’s Agreement. We remain at the table ready to find a constructive path to a successful conclusion. We are committed to becoming the first dairy company in the country to implement the Milk with Dignity program and remain dedicated to the pledge we made two years ago.
Make no mistake, we’re proud of the work we’ve done over the years in our dairy supply chain and we invite you to learn more about that work here. But we also understand that there is still much work to be done. We hope that soon we can move from discussing to implementing the Milk with Dignity program across our dairy supply chain.