Milk With Dignity Comes to Maine

By Allie Ophardt, Pine & Roses 

“On Monday afternoon, November 8, shoppers at the Back Cove Portland Hannaford looked on as a crowd of more than 200 people gathered across the lot. Busses rolled in and a coalition of Vermont farm workers got off, waving signs and carrying megaphones. Meanwhile, cars bringing supporters from all surrounding states arrived, joining locals to demand Milk with Dignity alongside Migrant Justice. Enrique Balcazar, a former dairy worker, urged Hannaford to clean up their supply chain, ‘We are all part of the working class. And during this pandemic, all these workers, farm workers included, are considered essential workers. Hannaford is responsible for the rights and wellbeing of all these essential workers. From the workers putting the milk on the shelves, to the workers like us who are milking the cows in the barn. All of us deserve dignity.’

“The dairy workers told powerful stories of their previous working conditions and how Milk with Dignity had helped them secure basic human rights. Workers were living in housing with no heat, working seven days a week, and not making minimum wage or overtime. Ed Sunday-Winters, Pastor of Greensboro United Church of Christ in Vermont, explained, ‘Why did I come here today? My God, I came because every worker in America deserves a fair wage, a safe place to live, and access to healthcare without fear of losing their job or any reprisal. That should just be the basic standard of what it means to be a worker in this country.’

“The march included supporters from every state in New England and was supported locally by the Southern Maine Labor Council and the Maine Democratic Socialists of America. . . ‘Si, se puede’ (‘Yes, we can.’) echoed through the streets of Portland as the marchers made their way from Hannaford to the Hood milk plant where Hannaford brand milk is bottled. To date, Hannaford has not yet responded to Migrant Justice’s call to sign onto Milk with Dignity and guarantee basic human rights in their supply chain. But the crowd outside of the supermarket let CEO Ron Hodge know that they do not plan on stopping until he signs on. These dairy workers are not alone. Their demands can be boiled down to a simple idea: workers all across America are demanding to be treated with dignity.”

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