On Feb. 12, activists met in Scarborough at the headquarters of Hannaford, a supermarket chain based in Maine. They rallied in support of Milk with Dignity, a campaign intent on combating the dairy industry’s abuse of migrant farm workers.
The initiative has asked supermarkets and large consumers of dairy products to sign a pledge promising to take responsibility for human rights abuses in the supply chain. Some companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, have signed on; however, Hannaford has ignored it. Even after Migrant Justice, the sponsor of Milk with Dignity, reached out directly to the supermarket’s leadership, they received no reply from the supermarket.
In response, activists organized this rally at Hannaford headquarters, demanding that Mike Vail ’85, President of Hannaford and a Colby alumnus, properly consider the pledge.
Sunrise Colby, a club dedicated to fighting climate change and enacting social justice, participated in the rally. Many of its members picketed alongside activists from Migrant Justice and upset farm workers. The Co-Presidents of Sunrise Colby, Maddie Brodrick ’22 and Emilie Pilchowski ’22, discussed the rally, their club, and environmental justice with The Colby Echo.
According to Brodrick, Sunrise Colby was founded recently. The club was originally affiliated with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), but this organization was too niche to serve the broad interests of the club’s members.
“The Citizens Climate Lobby looked only at passing one policy, the Carbon Dividends Act,” Brodrick said.
The club wanted to attack climate change through the lens of social justice, a mission incompatible with the narrow scope of CCL, so a few years back, it rebranded as Sunrise Colby, becoming a chapter of the national Sunrise organization.
“It’s a nationwide movement. There’s a bunch of hubs everywhere. Its goals are to promote community action and social justice,” Brodrick said.
Since its rebranding, the club has organized a variety of environmental justice initiatives. In the fall of 2020, it hosted a climate rally on the College’s campus in which a few hundred students participated. Sunrise Colby has also worked with the Oak Institute for Human Rights on environmental justice-themed events.
Leading up to the 2020 elections, it organized a “Get Out The Vote” campaign.
“We focused mostly on postcard writing and on sending reminders to young voters in swing states to remind them to vote,” Brodrick said.
The club has also campaigned to stop the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. For Sunrise Colby, this marks a step away from the national movement. While the nationwide organization paid little attention to the pipeline, Sunrise Colby saw it as one of their most important issues.
Recently, the club partnered with Migrant Justice on Milk with Dignity. Brodrick described the pledge that Migrant Justice had asked Vail to sign.
“Its goal is to have various grocery stores sign onto a petition recognizing that migrant farm workers receive very low wages and face sexual harrassment. They’re not always able to bring their whole families, and they often get separated,” Brodrick said.
To illustrate their point, rally participants held posters displaying some of the abuses faced by migrant farm workers. They left these posters at Hannaford headquarters, knowing that the supermarket’s leadership could no longer avoid these abuses.
Before Feb. 12, Migrant Justice and Sunrise Colby did not publicize the rally, as it wanted to surprise Hannaford.
“They intentionally didn’t post it on social media because they didn’t want it to be on Hannaford’s radar,” Pilchowski said.
After the rally, however, participants posted about it on Instagram. The official Instagram page of Hannaford even viewed some of these stories, but neither Migrant Justice nor Sunrise Colby has received a response from the supermarket.
In the future, Sunrise Colby is looking to partner with Migrant Justice more closely. On the Friday before the rally, Brodrick and Pilchowski met with a representative from the organization.
“We were able to sit down at Selah Tea with someone who was a student organizer with Migrant Justice and also a migrant farm worker and someone who was able to translate for us,” Brodrick said. “We were able to brainstorm some ideas about what we could do as Colby students, including looking at where we source our own milk at Colby and how we can spread awareness.”
Pilchowski believes that this meeting was important for directing the future plans of Sunrise Colby.
“Often you want to get involved but you don’t know how, or you’ll do something in isolation that isn’t necessarily tied to the main organization. It was nice to sit down with them,” she said.
In the rally’s aftermath, the club has been impassioned to continue its fight against the abuse of migrant farm workers. It wants to spread awareness of this issue to other students on campus. In particular, it has targeted the Mary Low Coffeehouse.
“The dining halls here don’t use Hannaford’s source milk. The only place that uses Hannford’s milk, that we know of, is the Mary Low Coffeehouse,” Pilchowski said.
She and Brodrick hope that the Coffeehouse, which is student-run, will choose to purchase milk from a supermarket that has agreed to the pledge.
~ Matt Rocha ’23