Activists march against Ben & Jerry’s

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MONTPELIER, VT. – Dairy farm workers and activists marched to the Ben & Jerry’s Vermont factory on Saturday to put pressure on the ice cream giant for what they call slow negotiations in finalizing a deal on its “Milk with Dignity” program.

Protestors claim that Ben & Jerry’s signed an agreement of cooperation in June 2015, committing to worker-driven social responsibility principles and to implementing the Milk with Dignity program.

It was developed to ensure fair wages and better living conditions for workers on farms that provide milk to Ben & Jerry’s. However, the Vermont dairy farmers argue that no agreements have been reached, according to the Associated Press.

“We’ve been negotiating in good faith,” said Will Lambek of Migrant Justice. “It’s an unacceptable delay.”

The march kicked off  Saturday morning at the Montpelier Statehouse, where protesters carried signs and marched all the way to the company’s main factory.

Being a company that has built a reputation around social activism as much as it has creative ice-cream flavors, it has long subscribed to the Fairtrade program for its suppliers, promoting higher prices and better working conditions for farmers.

A spokesman for Ben & Jerry’s, Sean Greenwood, issued a statement that the company is eager to reach a deal with the Vermont dairy farmers and workers, of which nearly 85 percent of the milk used in its ice cream made in the U.S. is sourced from these farms.

“We are a values-led business. We frame ourselves as an aspiring social justice company,” said Greenwood. “We try to do good with everything we can with our business. Dairy has definitely been one of those issues we have done a ton of work on for decades.”

Greenwood also stated that Ben & Jerry’s didn’t receive the first details from the workers until a year ago and both sides have been actively working to reach an agreement.

“It has to work for the farmers, the farm owners, and it has to work for the businesses involved and that’s the complex piece,” Greenwood said. “How do you make sure that it will be operationalized so it’s a win-win across the board and that’s what we’ve been working on for well over a year now.”

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