Ben & Jerry & Labor

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Ben Cohen, left, and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, in 2010. The company, which is now owned by Unilever, announced an agreement that establishes labor standards for the Vermont dairy farms that are its suppliers. Credit Ade Johnson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

We do not normally feature corporate food conglomerates in these pages, because there is not normally good news to share; but Ben & Jerry are not normal. Good on them for this:

For years, Ben & Jerry’s took steps to make sure that its ice cream did not contain artificial growth hormone. The company also has a self-imposed fee on its greenhouse gas emissions.

What Ben & Jerry’s did not have was a reliable way of ensuring that the dairy farms supplying it with milk were providing humane conditions for their workers, a major issue in an industry where many people work seven days a week for less than minimum wage.

On Tuesday, the ice cream maker, which is based in Vermont, took a big step toward changing that, signing an agreement with a farmworkers’ group that establishes labor standards for the company’s suppliers in the state, and creates an enforcement strategy that encourages workers to speak up about violations.

“We love to be part of innovation,” said Jostein Solheim, the company’s chief executive. “We believe in worker-led movements, and in bringing in dairy and doing it in Vermont.”

The agreement borrows heavily from an arrangement called the Fair Food Program that was put in place in 2011 to address troubling conditions in Florida’s tomato industry.

In that instance, Subway, Walmart, Whole Foods and other companies committed to paying an extra 1 to 4 cents per pound of tomatoes and to buying only from participating suppliers. The suppliers, in turn, agreed to pay the legal minimum wage and to ensure workers’ rights and safety. The program has been widely credited with improving working conditions in an industry where human trafficking flourished until recently. It has expanded to other crops and other states on the East Coast…

Read the whole story here.

One thought on “Ben & Jerry & Labor

  1. I’m not a fan/customer of Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever products, but the hubby buys them against my wishes from time to time. To know of the conditions the workers had to endure regularly is shameful — very good to see change for the better ahead.

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