BURLINGTON — Farmworkers will be protesting outside of Hannaford locations across the state Saturday as part of an initiative calling on the supermarket chain to source milk from farms with better working conditions.
Migrant Justice, an advocacy group that supports immigrant farmworkers, is publicly calling on Hannaford’s to source its store-brand milk from farms that meet minimum labor and housing condition standards.
Events are planned at 21 Hannaford locations in New England, 14 of which are in Vermont. The premiere event will be held at the Hannaford’s in Essex.
Will Lambek, a spokesperson for Migrant Justice, said consumers expect more from Hannaford.
“Nobody wants to go to the grocery store and pick up a gallon of milk and know that behind that gallon of milk there are workers who are being paid below minimum wage, working seven days a week with no break, no sick days, no vacation, and living in substandard housing,” he said. “And that’s the case right now.”
Hannaford did not return a call requesting comment.
Migrant Justice first called on Hannaford to join its Milk with Dignity program last month with an event in Burlington.
Hannaford, based in Maine, operates 181 stores in the Northeast. The supermarket chain is owned by Dutch multinational corporation Ahold Delhaize, which sees over $75 billion in global sales.
Burlington-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s joined the Milk with Dignity initiative in 2017. The company signed an agreement which requires dairy farm suppliers to provide higher wages, time off and higher-quality housing to its workers.
“This is what we are calling a new day in dairy, a new day for the human rights of farmworkers,” Migrant Justice leader Enrique Balcazar said at the time.
On Saturday, farm workers, farmers and consumers will be gathering to call on Hannafords to join the Milk with Dignity program and deliver letters to store managers, Lembek said.
“It’s a way of putting pressure on the company to respond to the invitation by showing them that farmworkers and consumers expect this from the company,” he said.
Migrant Justice has been working since the summer to get Hannaford on board with the initiative, but has not received a response from the chain, Lembek said.
The company’s size and scope inspired the organization to pinpoint Hannaford, Lembek said.
“Milk that’s produced on farms where workers are suffering from human rights abuses is ending up in Hannaford store-brand milk,” he said. “As a retailer, they have a responsibility to ensure that their products are being made without human rights violations.”
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