Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors
Vermont, Immigration, Food System, Agriculture, Latino, Economic Justice
Despite the importance of dairy to Vermont’s state economy, the migrant farmworkers who have come to fill shortages in domestic labor suffer exploitation at the bottom of the supply chain. This is a result of price pressures imposed by large corporations on the farm owners, which cause them to abandon workers’ rights because of the financial incentive. The structural inequalities within this system force many farmworkers to work under inadequate health and safety conditions for sixty to eighty hours per week without a day off, only to return to undignified housing provided by the farmers. Workers are also taken advantage of as the employers withhold or steal their wages. Retaliation is common when the workers complain.
Refusing to be silenced any longer, farmworker leaders have come together to bring justice to their community and to their system through a program called Milk with Dignity, which was designed in 2014 and officially implemented in 2018. This program follows a relatively new paradigm called Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) which contains five fundamental elements: a worker-authored Code of Conduct, education sessions, a third-party monitoring body, economic relief, and a legally-binding agreement. This thesis ethnographically explores the successes and limits that WSR has had in bringing labor and housing justice to Vermont’s dairy farms. It argues that this model has not only begun to transform these conditions, but has been fundamental in bringing agency to workers and reconstructing the power structures that exist in the industry.
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Loury, Marisa Grace, "The Cows Don’t Milk Themselves: Using Worker-Driven Social Responsibility to Fight Labor and Housing Injustice on Vermont’s Dairy Farms" (2020). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 351.