Got Milk with Dignity? Vermont’s Migrant Justice putting finishing touches on breakthrough dairy program…

Representatives of the CIW, the Fair Food Standards Council and Migrant Justice meet to discuss the soon-to-be-launched Milk with Dignity Program in the Vermont dairy industry.

From Florida tomatoes to Vermont dairy, Worker-driven Social Responsibility in the spotlight at food systems summit…

Last week, members of the CIW, Migrant Justice, and the Fair Food Standards Council came together for a special presentation at the 5th Annual Vermont Food Systems Summit in Burlington.  The panel, titled “Worker-driven Social Responsibility for Fair Food,” brought together two unique perspectives.  While the CIW and FFSC unpacked important lessons from their five years of experience implementing the Fair Food Program in tomato fields from Florida to New Jersey, Migrant Justice brought a decidedly more local focus to the gathering of New England food activists. 

Migrant Justice members described why Vermont dairy workers launched the Milk with Dignity Campaign seeking to enlist big dairy buyers, which benefit from low milk prices, to provide economic support for farmers who comply with workers’ rights standards in order to alleviate the market’s downward pressure on farmers and, ultimately, on farmworker wages and working conditions.


The presentation then pivoted to a discussion of the hopeful possibilities emerging from the application of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model to the Vermont dairy industry.  Throughout the event, including during the lively question and answer session, certain threads emerged as constants, including the necessity of worker participation in the design, implementation and monitoring of “fair labor” initiatives, and the necessity of binding, market-based enforcement to leverage compliance with the standards outlined in those initiatives.

Following the summit, the three organizations spent the next two days refining aspects of Migrant Justice’s soon-to-be-launched Milk with Dignity Program, including its worker-to-worker education curriculum and its compliance monitoring protocols.  Thanks to the hard work and perseverance of Migrant Justice, the future for dairy workers in Vermont is perhaps brighter than it has ever been.  We look forward to watching the next chapter unfold as the Milk with Dignity Program moves from concept to reality.