Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, long the country’s most overtly progressive company, is now no longer progressive enough for progressives.
Over the weekend, “scores” of activists marched on Ben & Jerry’s Vermont factory, demanding that the company push for better wages and working conditions for migrant workers on Vermont’s dairy farms. Social justice warrior blogs excoriated the company for failing to live up to its own progressive rhetoric.
Apparently, two years ago, Ben & Jerry’s promised to take part in the “Milk With Dignity” program (weirdly, not “Dairy With Dignity,” which would have been catchier). The campaign asks major corporations that use milk in their food products to work to ensure migrant workers who help produce the milk are treated fairly.
But because Ben and Jerry are, at heart, dirty capitalists, they began negotiations with the organizations, to structure their commitment in such a way that it protected their bottom line. They also claimed to the Washington Post that they wanted to get real details on farm worker treatment from the migrants themselves, so that the agreement could be realistic.
“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,” a representative of the company told media.
But the Vermont group Migrant Justice says that’s just unacceptable. Realism? Who needs it! Profit? Well, that’s just disgusting.
Ben & Jerry’s sucks up milk from 80 Vermont dairy farms, and that’s a lot of workers who aren’t being paid a “living wage.”
“We’ve been negotiating in good faith,” said Will Lambek, director of Migrant Justice. “It’s an unacceptable delay.”
To act like Ben & Jerry’s is some sort of corporate behemoth looking to exploit the labors of the proletariat so they can roll around in dollar bills is purely insane. Ben & Jerry’s most popular flavors are plays on current events, and even engage in ice cream-based activism: Their Australian branch refuses to sell two scoops of the same flavor to customers until same-sex marriage is legalized there, for example.
These kinds of campaigns are rarely sane, however. The Mary Sue points out, what good is being able to get a gay marriage if you can’t even take the time off of work? “Farmworkers can be queer, too,” the site exclaims. Who will think of the non-binary migrant workers? Clearly not Ben & Jerry’s.