October 3, 2019
To: Mark Vail, CEO of Hannaford Supermarkets
Dear Mr. Vail,
Today, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights celebrates two years of the Milk with Dignity, the groundbreaking worker-rights program of Migrant Justice which has transformed the Vermont dairy industry. But today is not just a celebration of what has already been accomplished. Today, another corporation is being asked to make the choice to be part of the transformation in workplace conditions happening for Vermont’s dairy workers. Hannaford, we ask you to take responsibility for ensuring human rights of workers in their dairy supply chain by joining Milk With Dignity.
The 2,000 rabbis and cantors of T’ruah are proud to stand as allies alongside Migrant Justice. Their core message of human rights–that farmworkers deserve to live and work with dignity–resonates deeply with Jewish tradition. Indeed, the very first principle enshrined in the very first chapter of the Torah teaches us that every human being is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. The result of that is that each person deserves to be treated with equal and infinite respect. The Jewish laws governing relationships between employers and also workers mandate paying a fair wage and protecting workers from danger.
As Jewish leaders, we believe that corporate social responsibility must begin with a commitment to the human rights and fair wages of workers. Consumers deserve to know that the products they buy are free from human rights abuses. As Jewish ethical consumers, the first question we ask is about the treatment of the human beings who produced a product. After all, it is not the milk that is created in the image of God, but the farmworker who produced it. Legally binding worker-driven social responsibility programs like Milk with Dignity are true embodiments of these values, placing workers at the head of a partnership that also supports farmers.
When human rights are at risk, every day that goes by without Hannaford joining Milk with Dignity could make the difference for the life of a dairy worker. We urge Hannaford to support the human rights of Vermont dairy workers and join Milk with Dignity without delay.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs