The Milk with Dignity Standards Council is an independent non-profit organization based in Burlington, Vermont, dedicated to implementation, monitoring and enforcement in the Milk with Dignity Program. The Milk with Dignity Program brings together farmworkers, farmers, buyers and consumers to secure dignified working conditions in dairy supply chains. The Program enlists the resources of food industry leaders, such as Ben & Jerry’s, that have made legally-binding commitments to protect workers’ human rights. Those participating buyers provide a premium to participating farms that agree to work towards compliance with the labor standards in the Milk with Dignity (MD) Code of Conduct. The premium supports farms’ compliance with the Code and rewards farms that comply.
The Milk with Dignity Program is rooted in the MD Code of Conduct, which was created by the very workers whose rights it protects. The Code further improves over time through feedback from farmworkers, farmers and the MD Working Group. The Code sets standards for conditions relating to wages, health and safety, housing, schedule and rest, non-retaliation, nondiscrimination, and other labor conditions. The MD Program is designed to encourage and support farmer compliance seeking to build participatory, fair and dignified workplaces characterized by mutual respect, improved communication and collaborative problem solving. In the process, the Milk with Dignity Program is building the foundation for a stronger Vermont dairy industry that can differentiate its product on the basis of a credible claim to social responsibility and so better weather the challenges of an increasingly competitive marketplace. The MD Program is a Worker-driven Social Responsibility Program and builds on the successful human rights monitoring track record of the Fair Food Program, which was founded by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
In the MD Program, compliance on the farm is achieved through a unique partnership and problem-solving approach among farmers, farmworkers, and the Milk with Dignity Standards Council (MDSC). The MDSC works with farmers and farmworkers to understand, participate in and achieve compliance with the labor standards in the Code.
Participating Farms in the Milk with Dignity Program are paid a premium to support and reward compliance with the Code. Participating Farms agree to:
Work with MDSC and workers to comply with the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct labor standards
Permit access to program education to ensure workers understand their rights and responsibilities
Allow workers to access MDSC’s support line and work with MDSC to resolve any complaints that come up
Collaborate with MDSC’s Code compliance audits, complaint investigations, and implementation of corrective action plans to make steady progress to come into compliance