On June 17th, hundreds of migrant workers, allies, and advocates set out from the Vermont state capital of Montpelier in a thirteen mile March for Dignity to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT. They demanded that the ice cream giant make good on overdue promises regarding working and living conditions for workers in its dairy supply chain. The march was organized by VT-based Migrant Justice, a migrant farmworker and immigration rights group. They were joined by representatives of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Burlington-based Peace & Justice Center, and had the support of a plethora of other heavy-hitting human rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Laureate Librada Paz.
The march comes as Migrant Justice seeks a final resolution to its Milk with Dignity campaign to ensure dignified working conditions in Vermont’s dairy industry. Heavily relied upon by Ben & Jerry’s, the workers have cited grueling work schedules, dangerous workplaces, and squalid living conditions as being out of step with the hugely profitable ice cream brand.
“We are calling on Ben & Jerry’s to make good on its promise to join the Milk with Dignity program,” said Migrant Justice organizer Abel Luna. “It is long past the time they stand up for the workers … by signing the Milk with Dignity Agreement,” he said.
Marching slowly along the highway, the workers were greeted by waves, supportive honks, and occasional jeers from passing motorists as the wound their way along Route 2 in the foothills of the Green Mountains. After five hours of trudging through Middlesex, Moretown, and Duxbury; the original 150 marchers were joined by an additional cohort of supporters who greeted them in Waterbury with cheers and ice-cold bottles of water before trekking the final mile to the Ben & Jerry’s factory on Route 100.
“These have been 13 miles of dignity!” said Luna as he addressed the assembled crowd and press gathered just inside the gates of the Ben & Jerry’s factory. “13 miles to show the world and to show Ben & Jerry’s that Vermont workers are not alone!”
For further updates on the march and Milk with Dignity Campaign, and to get involved and support the movement, visit Migrant Justice.
Dylan Kelley is a freelance journalist, photographer, and radio producer living in Vermont who specializes in covering issues surrounding human rights and climate justice. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.