Milk with Dignity is a worker-centered social responsibility campaign aimed at strengthening community connections initiated by Vermont’s dairy farmworkers and engaging the full supply chain. The first campaign of its kind in the dairy industry, Milk with Dignity defines and enacts a system of fair labor standards for milk produced for Ben & Jerry’s, a B-corporation owned by Unilever that emphasizes ecological and social awareness as part of its brand. Milk is the most significant component of Ben & Jerry’s frozen dairy products and the only key ingredient not covered by the company’s fair trade certification.
The Milk with Dignity campaign implements enforceable fair labor standards by connecting workers and farmers with dairy brands at the top of the supply chain. Farmers who uphold Milk with Dignity’s worker-authored Code of Conduct receive a price premium. Participating farmers increase workers’ pay, improve housing and working conditions, strengthen communication with and among workers, and pay membership dues. Improving pay and working conditions stabilizes their labor force, as farmworkers are more likely to stay rather than look for better employment.
The Milk with Dignity approach to domestic fair trade seeks to implement a worker-authored contract while leveraging certification, supply chain negotiation, coalition building and supply chain policy. In contrast to the labeling-centered approaches of existing fair trade certification schemes, Milk with Dignity pursues a vision of fairness put forward by the farmworkers themselves.
This case study is part of a participatory effort led by CIAS to better understand labor issues on small- and medium-scale farms involved in local and regional food systems.