By Linda Brindle
Kairos Milwaukie United Church of Christ, Milwaukie, OR
CPCUCC Representative Oregon Farm Workers Ministry Board (OFM)
Do you remember the stories of worker abuse at dairy farms that supply Darigold’s milk? For those who haven’t heard the story before, workers have come forward repeatedly describing conditions that include wage theft, unsanitary restrooms, lack of rest or lunch breaks, lack of water and mistreatment of workers. There are at least four dairies in Washington & Oregon which are accused of this worker mistreatment.
In addition there is also animal abuse at the Darigold supplier dairies. One worker tells that “The manager carries around a taser and he was electrocuting the cow so that she would get up. The cow screamed and cried with the shocks until one worker…told him to leave her alone; that they would take the cow outside.”1 In another story “The cows get milked with mastitis because we don’t have enough people to be able to milk right. You can tell that it hurts the cows a lot…because they (are)…very swollen from the (mistreatment) that they receive.”1
Complaints from various workers include working for over 10 years as a milker and NEVER having a rest break and lunch breaks are about 10 minutes—always hurrying.2 In order to have water to drink during their shift, workers must bring their own. There are no other options. There are cases of wage theft that have been tied up in court at least since 2011.
In February 2014 for the first time, workers saw a glimmer of hope. Darigold General Counsel Steve Rowe listened to a delegation of workers as part of a rally workers held at Darigold’s Seattle Headquarters. Prior to that Darigold closed the doors on their dairy workers when they visited the Portland plant.
We must not let our guard down. Please send a letter (Jim Wegner, CEO & President, Darigold, P O Box 3477, Seattle, WA 98124-1377 or email (email@example.com) using a format similar to this:3
Dear Jim Wegner:
Enough is enough. You are getting thousands of emails & letters from concerned consumers about serious abuses of workers and animals at four or more of your supplier dairies. It’s a new season. As your consumers we strongly urge you to use your influence to ensure that these abuses stop now.
1United Farm Workers e-mail notice dated 1/15/14
2United Farm Workers e-mail notice dated 1/6/14
3United Farm Workers e-mail notice dated 1/15/14 http://www.ufw.org/
Please note: the email for Darigold has been corrected.