An earlier Milk With Dignity protest. Migrant Justice

On Saturday, June 24, the Milk With Dignity campaign marched on Hannaford Supermarket in Portland to demand labor rights. Hannaford, a Scarborough-based company, is being urged to require its suppliers follow stronger labor protections. Similar protests and campaigns have occurred in Scarborough in recent years. Hannaford’s corporate and multinational parent company is Ahold Delhaize of the Netherlands.

The campaign is organized by the Vermont-based farmworkers rights organization, Migrant Justice. Consolidation and globalization have led to huge retail brands such as Hannaford to be able to benefit from low prices at the expense of farmworkers’ wages and working conditions.

The Milk With Dignity program strengthens and protects workers’ rights. In 2017, Ben & Jerry’s was the first major dairy program to sign on after years of campaigning and negotiations.

“Milk With Dignity has documented that Hannaford’s dairy supply chain includes farms where workers are suffering from severe human rights abuses,” wrote Cynthia Phinney, president of Maine AFL-CIO, a state federation of over 160 local labor unions, in a letter to Hannaford Supermarkets President Mike Vail.

The letter endorsed support for Milk With Dignity.

Migrant Justice was created in 2009 after the death of 20-year-old dairy worker José Obeth Santiz Cruz. The Milk With Dignity campaign is working to invite corporations that profit from the dairy industry to take responsibility and ensure their milk is sourced in compliance with human rights protections.

Milk With Dignity has been campaigning for years to expand human rights protections to the Hannaford Supermarkets chain. Migrant Justice reports human rights violations in Vermont dairy farms such as workers being overworked with no time off, being underpaid, having pay illegally withheld, suffering from overcrowded housing with inadequate heat, not having eight consecutive hours off per day to sleep, and more.

With the Milk With Dignity program, compliance with stronger worker rights is protected through an independent non-profit standards council with sole function of overseeing the program.

The program has been campaigning Scarborough-based Hannaford for years, with the supermarket chain yet to sign on. Hannaford has declined to negotiate with Milk With Dignity and cites its own response to work rights violations such as the “Speak Up Line,” a grievance hotline where farmworkers can report violations within their supply chain. According to Migrant Justice, the hotline is inadequate and biased, especially compared to the protections granted by Milk With Justice.

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