2014: Vermont Migrant Farmworkers March and Picket for Return of Withheld Pay

An acocunt of picketing by Migrant workers at a dairy in Vermont over poor living and working conditions and wage theft.

Submitted by Reddebrek on June 28, 2019

Vermont Migrant Farmworkers March and Picket for Return of Withheld Pay, 2014

The St. Albans Cooperative Creamery was a farmer/member-owned milk-processing plant in St. Albans, Vermont (VT) in the United States with a supplying base of 360 farms. Ray Brands owned one of these farms—called Deer Valley Farm—and on 15 May 2014, two immigrant workers at his farm quit due to poor living conditions and Brands’ withholding of paychecks. Earlier that May, another worker quit for the same reasons.

Victor Diaz, one of the workers who quit, recalled, "I came to this farm over two years ago. I lived in that camper with four people. It was so small we couldn't even stretch our legs out when we slept. The roof was leaking and you can see what the bosses [sic] solution was (pointing to the camper). He threw that tarp on top but that kept leaking of course. At one point, we were sleeping with nylon over us so the water would run off us." Other poorly handled repairs included a sewage-backup that Brands solved by rerouting sewage to the surface around the mobile home in which workers were housed.

The day after Diaz and his coworker quit, 16 May, Migrant Justice joined them and other workers at Brands’ farm in Ferrisburgh, VT. Migrant Justice attempted to return pay to all three workers who had walked off that month. Reporters for Vermont Public Radio (VPR), a state-funded nonprofit radio news station, accompanied the group.

Protestors marched from the start of the farm road to the main premises of the farm, where they met the farmer’s son, who threatened to call the police. The protestors returned to the road, where they picketed until Brands finally met with them. The workers and Brands exchanged comments until Brands agreed to write checks for the three who had walked off.

It could not be identified whether or not living conditions improved on Brands’ farm since the protest, but the event stood as a jumping-off point for further pro-worker and pro-migrant actions in the state of Vermont, including Migrant Justice’s Milk With Dignity Campaign.

Research Notes
Vermont Migrant Farmworkers Advocate for Ben and Jerry’s to sign pledge for Milk With Dignity (2)

Anon. n.d. “History.” St. Albans Cooperative Creamery Inc. Retrieved April 10, 2019 (https://web.archive.org/web/20190513200656/http://www.stalbanscooperative.com/learn-about-us/history/http://www.stalbanscooperative.com/learn-about-us/history/).
Anon. 2014. “VT Farmworkers March on Dairy Farm Winning $1800 in Unpaid Wages and Pointing Out Deplorable Housing Conditions.” Migrant Justice / Justicia Migrante, May 16. Retrieved April 10, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190513200623/https://migrantjustice.net/node/237).
Evancie, Angela. 2014. “Migrant Workers, Activists Protest On-Farm Living Conditions.” Vermont Public Radio, May 16. Retrieved April 10, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190513200558/https://www.vpr.org/post/migrant-workers-activists-protest-farm-living-conditions#stream/0https://www.vpr.org/post/migrant-workers-activists-protest-farm-living-conditions).
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy:
Matt Koucky 28/05/2019