Ben and Jerry’s

Hailley Brune – Opinion Columnist

I’d never given ice cream manufactures much thought. Over the summer I was with my sister and she went to buy some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. At first I judged her, verbally of course, for buying such expensive ice cream. She argued back saying how it tastes better, they have good morals, and the ice cream is more expensive so they can pay their employees more. This did peak my interest because I didn’t know anything about Ben and Jerry’s, except that I couldn’t afford it. After doing some digging, I’ve found them to have an interesting history.
Ben Cohan and Jerry Greenfield were the founders of the ice cream company. Jerry was struggling to get into medical school while Ben was a dropout who took a course on ice cream making. Ben also had a lack of smell, which was the reason they made ice cream with chunks, for the texture purposes. They opened their first ice cream shop in Vermont in 1978. Fun Fact, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was used to make the largest ice cream sundae in 1983. The original owners wanted their stores and factories to be positive places. They always stepped up and expressed their opinions on social issues through ice cream and support. During their time under the original owners Ben and Jerry were known to receive high wages. In 1995 the starting pay for an entry-level employee was $12. Today the highest paying Ben and Jerry’s is in Vermont, and they pay $18. They strived to make sure their higher ups weren’t getting overpaid and the entry level employees underpaid.
In 2000 Ben and Jerry sold the company to Unilever with the agreement that they would hold up their values. Under new management they’ve publicly kept this promise. In 2006 the U.S. Senate proposed opening Alaska to oil drilling. Ben and Jerry’s launched a protest by making the largest Baked Alaska. Baked Alaska is an ice cream dessert with a type of baked meringue on top. Their Baked Alaska weighed 900 pounds and was placed in front of the capitol building. They’ve shown support for eco friendly packaging, GMO free products, and transparency for milk production.
So, to the public it seems they’ve kept their promise, but what about behind the ice cream. What’s happening with the workers and in the factories? While under the ownership of Ben and Jerry they were always very open and transparent with their wages. While under Unilever their wages have become more hidden. Whether that’s because they lowered them, or other reasons I can’t say. If you look up their wages you get anywhere from $11-$15. It’s known that their Vermont workers are paid higher, in the $18 range. They haven’t given a reason for this but assume it’s because Vermont is their beginning. Their headquarters and main factory are also located in Vermont. While there are some discrepancies in their wages there are other benefits. They have a progressive benefits package plus paid family leave and health club memberships. Factory employees also get to take home three free pints of ice cream or frozen yogurt every day. Which I think is a pretty sweet perk to making ice cream.
Overall even after the switch of ownership Ben and Jerry’s keeps their good reputation. In general they’re said to be a fun place to work for and they have a good reputation from their workers. There’s some parts of the business that don’t come off as genuine as they originally did. Keeping their wages more closed off, and the differences in pay between places. We also live in a capitalist society so we have to expect foul play from everyone, just to cover the bases. It’s always when you don’t expect a company to be skeevy, that’s when they are. Big picture wise, Ben and Jerry’s seems like a sweet place to work. A place where you can feel a little more confident that they are supporting your values, and the values of others.

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