On June 21, the DC Food Justice Bike Tour visited a number of locations with economic and food justice significance. The first was a Ben and Jerry’s outlet in Georgetown, where the Milk with Dignity campaign is seeking higher wages for dairy workers in Vermont. This campaign is following in the footsteps of the sucessful Coalition of Immokalee Workers campaign for higher wages in tomato fields. Ben and Jerry’s is a major customer of the dairy factory farms in Vermont, just as Burger King is a major customer of tomato producers.
Working hours in Vermont’s dairy factory farms can be as long as 14 hours a day, statewide 40% get paid less than minimum wage and 20% have their first week’s wages withheld, which is flat-out wage theft. Apparently some of these employers refuse to pay wages owned in arrears for hours already worked when workers decide they can no longer tolerate the conditions and quit. Ben and Jerry’s “Caring Dairy” program is based on self-assessement over the Web, so far they have balked at outside audits.
The DC Food Justice Bike Tour crossed into Georgetown by bike, dismounted, and entered the Ben and Jerry’s outlet as a whole group. This was originally planned as a rather strong protest, but Ben and Jerry’s corporate office has already agreed to negotiate. Thus, this visit was reduced to a letter delivery by the entire group as a reminder to follow through on the promise Ben and Jerry’s has made.
There were several other stops, at friendly rather than target locations before the whole tour rode to the Three Part Harmony Farm in NE DC for a free dinner.
Entering the Ben and Jerry’s in Georgetown with a letter concerning worker conditions in Vermont’s dairy factory farms
Outside the Georgetown Ben and Jerry’s
Activists on bikes can travel much faster than any march from one location to another