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Picketers call on Hannaford Supermarkets to support migrant dairy workers

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Migrant Justice supporters appeal to shoppers at Hannaford Supermarket in Portland Sunday.

The group Migrant Justice picketed at Hannaford Supermarkets Sunday to call for human rights for dairy farm workers. Migrant Justice created the Milk with Dignity Program to address low pay, poor conditions, and human rights violations in the dairy industry. The group, for years, has been asking Hannaford to join Milk with Dignity, and the grocery chain has resisted.

Yobani Moreno, a Migrant Justice member, came from Mexico to work on a Vermont dairy farm 3 years ago. He said he worked three shifts a day with little rest, had low pay, and if he was sick and couldn't work his pay was docked. Moreno said conditions improved after the farm joined Milk with Dignity and was monitored to ensure compliance with labor standards. But Moreno said he's visited Maine dairy farms where workers are still mistreated.

"I visited one couple who were living in housing that was provided by the farm, and they told me that they didn't have heating in the house," he said. "And then in the wintertime, they suffered a lot."

Moreno said some workers told him they work two weeks straight before getting a day off. Since his farm joined Milk with Dignity, Moreno said he works shorter shifts, has days off, better pay, and is taken to the doctor if he's sick. Moreno said he wants the same benefits for Maine migrant dairy workers and that Hannaford's president should visit its source farms to see conditions.

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Milk with Dignity program sign near Hannaford Supermarket in Portland.

In a statement, Hannaford said its suppliers sign a code of conduct that requires them to follow labor laws and treat workers humanely, and that it does audits and has found no credible accounts of migrant worker abuse in its supply chain.