To the editor — Thank you for reporting on the dairy farmworkers in Mabton whose rights were violated and now may suffer further harm through the bankruptcy of Mensonides Dairy, a member of the Darigold system. These abuses occur too often. Public awareness can lead to solutions.
I am concerned, though, by the brief mention of lower milk prices received by dairies. Lower milk prices do not absolve employers of responsibility for mistreating farmworkers.
In addition, the article should have been more balanced about the economics of dairies. Many dairy workers work 12-hour shifts 6 or 7 days a week without overtime. Job fatalities and injuries on dairies are disproportionately high.
It’s true that milk prices have been lower recently, but milk prices fluctuate from year to year. In fact, Washington State’s dairies increased their milk production between 2014 and 2018. Further, price fluctuations are moderated by government-subsidized programs, including the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Yes, thousands of dairies have closed, but the milk is now being produced by fewer, larger dairies that maximize profits by scaling up and being more efficient. The dairy sector needs to come to grips with the illegality and unfairness in its labor relations.
President, Farmworker Justice