A group of Vermont dairy farmworkers is asking Hannaford to sign on to a program that it says will help improve living and working conditions for migrant farm workers. 

Members of the group, Vermont-based farmworkers’ rights organization Migrant Justice, drove four hours to Scarborough on Friday to protest outside the grocery store chain’s headquarters and to attempt to speak with company officials about their Milk with Dignity Campaign. 

“They locked the door in our faces and are refusing to meet with us,” the group said on social media. The group told News Center Maine that the company called the police.

But Hannaford told News Center Maine that the demonstrations often escalate to confrontation and intimidation, making Hannaford workers and customers feel unsafe.

The group has petitioned Hannaford to join the Milk with Dignity program for years. 

The program aims to institute and strengthen ethical working conditions for migrant dairy farmworkers who report low wages, poor working conditions, labor abuse and insufficient housing. It would require companies to pay a premium for milk from participating farmers who agree to work toward compliance with the labor standards set in the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct. According to Migrant Justice, the premium helps offset farms’ costs of compliance and rewards farms that comply. 


Ben and Jerry’s became the first major company to join in 2017. About 65 dairy companies in Vermont and New York are covered under the program, according to the organization. 

The farmworkers have criticized Hannaford for its refusal to join Milk with Dignity.

“With nearly 200 stores, Hannaford is one of the largest supermarket chains in the Northeast and an important buyer of dairy products in the region. Hannaford’s store-brand milk is processed and bottled at plants around the Northeast. These plants source from farms where workers are suffering severe human rights abuses, working in dangerous conditions for below minimum wage,” Migrant Justice said. 

The group organized a one-day boycott of Hannaford products on May 1. 

Last summer, Hannaford said in a statement that it recognizes the challenges faced by migrant workers but that it disagreed with Migrant Justice’s approach to the situation. 

“The concerns and issues facing agricultural workers are systemic, complex and extend far beyond Hannaford’s supply chain and the state of Vermont. The Milk with Dignity program is focused on a very small portion of the U.S. dairy supply chain, both in terms of its geographic footprint as well as the number of stakeholders involved,” the company said. “Because of the complexity and scope of the issues facing migrant farm workers, we do not feel this approach is scalable. Nor do we feel that these issues can be solved with a patchwork of loosely affiliated programs like Milk with Dignity working independently.”

Hannaford said it has implemented the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management tool, a program designed to support farmers in building safe work environments that is being used by 3,000 farms. Hannaford requires its private label suppliers to use the FARM assessment and evaluation tool, it said.

The company has also touted its own “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 with the protections granted by Milk With Justice. 

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