Archive for October, 2017

MIGRANT JUSTICE AND BEN & JERRY’S REACH GROUNDBREAKING AGREEMENT TO IMPLEMENT NEW, TRANSFORMATIVE WORKER-LED LABOR INITIATIVE IN DAIRY INDUSTRY

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Burlington, VT—October 3, 2017

Ben & Jerry’s and Migrant Justice have reached an historic agreement to implement the worker-driven Milk with Dignity (MD) Program in Ben & Jerry’s Northeast dairy supply chain.  Over the past two years, the parties have worked tirelessly to accomplish their shared goal to bring together farmworkers, farmers, and dairy buyers to ensure just and dignified working conditions in Ben & Jerry’s northeast dairy supply chain. Now, farmworkers and Ben & Jerry’s are ready to go, pivoting to a new partnership to implement this groundbreaking, worker-led initiative. Work will begin this fall on a multi-year plan with the goal of eventually sourcing 100% of Ben & Jerry’s milk through the MD Program and a holistic dairy program that addresses all key aspects of dairy farming.

Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Program, modeled after the world-renowned Fair Food Program, enlists the resources of food industry leaders, such as Ben & Jerry’s, to provide a premium for dairy ingredients to participating farmers who agree to work towards compliance with the labor standards in the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct. The premium paid to farmers helps offset farms’ costs of compliance with the Code, rewards farms that comply, and allows farmers to pass-through a portion of the premium as a bonus paid to workers. In the Milk with Dignity Program, compliance on the farm is achieved through a unique partnership and problem-solving approach among farmers, farmworkers, and the Milk with Dignity Standards Council (MDSC). The MDSC is an independent non-profit that works with farmers and farmworkers to understand, participate in, and achieve compliance with labor standards in the Code. 

 

A group of farmworkers, supporters and Ben & Jerry’s employees stood outside the company’s flagship store on Vermont’s iconic Church Street, where farmworker organizer and former dairy worker Enrique Balcazar shared, “This is an historic day for dairy workers. We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now, we move forward towards a new day for us dairy workers.  This is a huge step forward for us and for all workers and we appreciate that Ben & Jerry’s has taken a leadership role to source its milk in a way that improves working and housing conditions on dairy farms.”

“This is a ground breaking, historic moment not only for two organizations, but most importantly for the hard working dairy farm workers who are a critical part of our community.” Solheim acknowledged how key the farmers and cooperative are to making the next steps of program implementation possible, sharing that this program will result in a win-win for all involved. “Vermont’s farmers can continue to set the tone for the dairy industry. Today, whether it is for animal care, environmentally sound operations, and now, enhanced labor practices, Vermont’s farming community will continue to lead the nation. We are proud of our partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative and these farmers have our full commitment. We recognize the many challenges facing the Vermont dairy farmers today, and we need to do what we can collectively to support the farmers moving forward. We can’t do this without them.”

Both organizations put pen to paper at the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in their shared hometown of Burlington, Vermont. The plan now is to put the buyer’s agreement into practice by recruiting farmers from St. Albans Cooperative to join the Program as soon as possible.  Ben & Jerry’s has committed to work towards the goal of sourcing 100% of its dairy ingredients through the Milk with Dignity Program over a period of years.  Moving forward, The MD Program will be one of the focused “pillars” of Ben & Jerry’s new dairy sourcing to address the full farm ecosystem.

For more information about Migrant Justice, Milk with Dignity, or Ben & Jerry’s follow the links below:

Migrant Justice: http://migrantjustice.net/

Milk with Dignity:https://migrantjustice.net/milk-with-dignity

Ben & Jerry’s:www.benjerry.com/

About Migrant Justice
Our mission is to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights. We gather the farmworker community to discuss and analyze shared problems and to envision collective solutions. Through this ongoing investment in leadership development, members deepen their skills in community education and organizing for long-term systemic change. From this basis our members have defined community problems as a denial of rights and dignity and have prioritized building a movement to secure these fundamental human rights to: 1) Dignified Work and Quality Housing; 2) Freedom of Movement and Access to Transportation; 3) Freedom from discrimination; 4) Access to Health Care.

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Connect, Engage, Grow!

By Rev. JanJay Innis

I had just graduated from Seminary. Unlike many of my peers who knew what iteration of ministry they were called to, I was uncertain. However, learning about God's preferential treatment for the poor and marginalized had transformed me and I wanted to use my faith to help repair the world.  Still uncertain about what I wanted to do with my theological degree, I became a missionary to have a nuanced understanding of how the church could better connect with society and facilitate social change on micro and meso and macro levels.

I applied for young adult mission service with Global Ministries wanting to serve in Liberia where I am originally from, but God called me to serve in the United States where I'd been living for more than half of my life. I was led to the understanding that though the US and western European countries had been at the forefront of sending missionaries to third world countries in the 21st century in attempts to Christianize them, mission had to be more about working together to restore a world broken and divided because of the failure to see all persons in the image of God and bearing gifts to bring about the changes they needed. Such ideologies had caused many social ills that led to vulnerable populations working tirelessly to survive while greed , prejudice and misused power stratified a privileged few  to the top in the name of upward mobility. The US is an eternal case study for said problems and persons of faith need to be at the full front, speaking truth to power and seeking justice with the marginalized . I'd been shaped by US politics and policies whether I was aware of it or not. So, I trained for and became a US-2 missionary to utilize my right as a citizen to shift the nation's consciousness and actions to what was right in the ways I was capable of . I became a Social Justice Advocate at Tacoma Community House in Tacoma, Washington. There, I told the success stories of Refugees and Immigrants in efforts to help transform the anti-immigrant sentiments and narratives that were circulating around the country. I helped break down policies that were pertinent to the lives of refugees and immigrants to a basic level of understanding and coordinated self advocacy visits for them at the state level. I also led voter registration campaigns encouraging newly naturalized citizens to register to vote. In addition, as social media exposed racial violence across the country, I found myself deeply committed to anti-racism work as a self interest but also as a way to open up candid dialogues in the church about America's original sin of racism.  

With faith being the primary lens through which I read the world, my theological education gave me the theory to connect  my faith to justice work and my time as a US-2 gave me the opportunity live out this theory in practice. I am currently 3 months into my first appointment as a pastor in a multicultural community where on any given day of the week, people walk into the church needing food, jobs or a shelter because they are victims of human trafficking. I am overwhelmed by the experiences thus far but I know with God's help, I have been able to connect them to resources they need and motivate the church to assist and love towards solutions to some of the problems because mission work has taught me how to do that. 

If you're a young adult between the ages of 20-30 or know such a person with a heart that is equally passionate for the abundant living of people as well as their faith,  know that the two can intersect and can be applied to all areas of interest and skill sets. Explore those intersections by applying to become Global Mission Fellow!

Rev. JanJay Innis serves as a clergyperson in the North Georgia Annual Conference and is a member of the MFSA Board of Directors. 

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