Although there was minimal media coverage of the event, hundreds of migrant workers and their advocates participated in a march from Montpelier, Vermont to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in nearby Waterbury. The June 17th March for Dignity was to show the company that affiliated dairy supply chain workers were serious about standing up for their rights.
What Sparked The March
The famous ice cream company’s executives claimed that they would improve both working and living conditions for affiliated supply chain workers near the Waterbury location. Although they were long overdue, the promises were not upheld. Migrant Justice was the local migrant rights group that organized the event. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Burlington Peace and Justice Center, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and several other human rights groups supported the march as well.
Dairy workers who are affiliated with the Waterbury plant have been reporting substandard working and living conditions for many years. They have cited grueling work schedules, low wages, squalid housing and dangerous work hazards as reasons for demanding change. The workers and their advocates rightly believe that such conditions being allowed to continue is out of line with the profitable company’s brand. Some of the workers live in housing quarters on nearby farms that supply the milk for the company’s ice cream products.
What Needs To Change
Supply chain workers on nearby dairy farms are demanding dignified living quarters and safer working conditions with adequate pay. The workers want Ben & Jerry’s to join the Milk with Dignity program, which advocates for fair treatment of migrant workers on dairy farms. Since the price of milk drops below the cost of production for a few months each year, corporations profit from the drop while dairy farms and their workers see nothing but reduced income.
Many major health, safety and labor laws do not apply to small farms, and the existing laws to protect workers are rarely enforced. Corporations have the ability to advocate for their supply chain workers but instead create initiatives that exclude workers. They are more focused on their own profits. Also, they could fix the problems associated with downward pressure of milk prices dropping below production costs but choose to pocket their earnings from the dip instead of allocating it to help suffering farms and workers.
Advocates say that working and living conditions cannot improve until corporations take a stand for their valuable supply chain workers, and migrant workers must work even harder to be the voices of change. They hope that the recent march of over 150 people will be a step in the right direction and that one ice cream giant joining Milk with Dignity will inspire other companies to follow.
About Lacey & Larkin
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin of the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund applaud and support the recent March for Dignity in Vermont. The two entrepreneurs donate a considerable amount of money to help migrants. They hope to further education for them and promote freedom of speech. The two men believe that migrant workers should have a powerful voice and that advocates should support them since they lack adequate pay to fund events that raise awareness of common injustices.
Before they decided to fund human, civil and migrant rights causes, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin ran Village Voice Media and the Phoenix New Times. They have also donated large sums to federal and state democratic political funds that support migrants and human rights causes. The pair donated to over 20 charities, which they listed on their website.