Ben and Jerry's, Migrant Justice call farmworker program a success

WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) Ben & Jerry's and the group Migrant Justice say an agreement that the ice cream company signed last year to improve pay and working conditions of laborers on farms that provide the company milk has been a success during trying dairy times.

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Ben & Jerry's signed the "Milk with Dignity" agreement last October, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. dairy industry.

The company pays a premium to participating farmers who agree to certain labor and housing standards, including meeting Vermont's minimum wage, offering five paid sick days, five paid vacation days a year and at least one day off a week.

The company says all 72 farms in its Northeast supply chain have enrolled in the program. And they say more than 300 farmworkers and farmers have participated in education sessions. The company would not say how much farmers get paid to follow the program's requirements.

"We've been able to enroll all of the farmers that are in our dairy program into the Milk with Dignity program, and this now allows farmers to receive a premium that supports them in providing of livable housing, a fair workplace schedule, better employee education," said Cheryl Pinto with Ben and Jerry's.

"It took a while to get to this point but we are incredibly pleased to be able to stand side-by-side with Ben and Jerry's today to celebrate together the incredible progress that's been made and the implementation of the Milk with Dignity program," said Will Lambek with Migrant Justice.

Lambek says Ben & Jerry's can be a model for other companies to follow.