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Business and Economy

Dairy workers bring fight for stronger labor protections to Hannaford's corporate headquarters

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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Protestors hold up a banner outside Hannaford's corporate headquarters in Scarborough on Saturday. The rally was organized by Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based farmworker rights group that has been pressuring Hannaford to join its Milk with Dignity program for several years.

Migrant Justice held a protest at Hannaford supermarket’s corporate headquarters in Scarborough on Saturday, calling on the company to adopt stronger labor protections in its dairy supply chain. The rally also drew attention to a recent legislative setback for farmworkers in Maine.

The action, organized by the Vermont-based group Migrant Justice, was the latest in a long-running campaign to pressure Hannaford to join the Milk with Dignity Program, and drew about 50 people.

One of the people who spoke at the rally was a dairy worker named Emilio, who gave only his first name. Speaking in Spanish, Emilio said the program would ensure higher pay, better living conditions, and paid time off.

Emilio said paid time off is especially important, because currently many workers can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick.

HannafordProtest2_Snider
Ari Snider
/
A young girl holds up a photo of a Vermont dairy worker at the protest outside Hannaford's corporate headquarters in Scarborough on Saturday. Migrant Justice, the group that organized the protest, said they brought the photos to remind Hannaford of the people who produce the company's dairy products.

Also speaking at the rally was Maine state Rep. Thom Harnett, a Democrat from Gardiner. He said farmworkers deserve the same protections that other employees receive.

"The people that produce the milk that [Hannaford] sells deserve nothing less than to be treated like human beings and treated fairly where they work," Harnett said.

The protest came after Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill Harnett had introduced that would have allowed farmworkers in Maine to engage in collective bargaining.

In a statement, Hannaford said it requires all its suppliers to follow labor laws and treat workers fairly and humanely, and is conducting farm audits to make sure these expectations are being met.