Darigold in the hotseat: Consumers bring class-action lawsuit against company

Consumers have brought a federal class-action lawsuit against Darigold, alleging that the company mistreats animals and violates workers' rights.  

On May 8, the Oregonian published the following story about the complaint:

Darigold focus of lawsuit alleging animal abuse, violations of workers' rights
Published in the Oregonian on May 8, 2014
By Lynne Terry 

Consumers have filed a federal complaint against Darigold, one of the largest dairy producers in the country, accusing the cooperative of violating workers rights and milking sick and injured cows.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, says the company bills itself as a champion of good labor practices and animal husbandry but in reality produces milk "under conditions where dairy cows are injured and sick, where despite suffering from bloody and swollen udders, cows are still milked, and where workers are denied the most basic labor protections, such as drinkable water, lunch rooms, meal and rest periods and an environment free of discrimination."

Darigold responded in the statement, refuting the allegations.

“After review of the claims we are confident that they are meritless and will fail in the course of litigation,” said Steve Rowe, Darigold's senior vice president of corporate affairs, in the statement. “The claims that our dairy producers do not adequately take care of their employees or animals is not only inaccurate, it is offensive to generations of our dairy farm families and the employees who care for the animals."

The complaint names two plaintiffs – Fernando Dorantes of Bend and Yesenia Ruiz of Daly City, Calif., on behalf of other as-yet-unnamed consumers. It says they were both deceived into regularly buying Darigold products by its Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

Published on the company's website, the report paints a picture of Darigold's 500-plus dairies, including 69 in Oregon, as environmental stewards that put animal care and comfort first. The report says the company follows labor laws and treats its 1,500 workers ethically, respecting their human rights. But the complaint alleges that immigrant workers are routinely subject to racial slurs and that management is aware of the conditions.

It seeks unspecified damages.

In 2009, workers at Ruby Ridge Dairy in Washington state filed suit against Darigold, accusing the company of violating labor laws. The case in still grinding through the courts.

Darigold sells $2 billion worth of dairy products every year, with member dairies in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California and Montana.

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