It’s National Farmworker Awareness Week, a program of Student Action with Farmworkers that aims “to raise awareness about farmworker conditions and to honor their important contributions to us every day.”
In that spirit, I thought I’d point you to a couple recent pieces. The first is an essay in Good Magazine from Sanjay Rawal, director of the forthcoming documentary film, Food Chains (which I posted about when its Kickstarter campaign was underway). As Rawal writes,
Farmworkers, whether documented or not, aren’t protected by the same labor laws as the rest of us are. They are also paid by how much they pick which pits workers against each other to harvest more than one another—in the heat and without regular water breaks.
Worse, the power dynamic in the fields is akin to that of a master and serf. Workers are too intimidated to complain when their rights are violated. Women can be raped and are regularly harassed. In the worst cases, workers have actually been enslaved: working for no pay and under the threat of beatings or death.
The undercarriage of our magnificent food production system, second to none, is rusted and decayed. The system is fueled by inequity and fear.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Rawal goes on to describe the struggles (and successes) that the farmworker organization the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has had. Check out his full piece here.
For more on that subject, check out this recent article from Ryan E. Little reporting for Naples News in Florida. As he writes,
Hundreds of Immokalee farmworkers and their supporters held out open hands to [grocery chain] Publix on Sunday [March 17] demanding they join a coalition that works for farmworker’s rights….
The Sunday afternoon event was the end of a 200-mile march from Immokalee to Lakeland; workers endured uncommon cold, rain and blistered feet to protest in front of Publix stores….
The two-week-long march is part of a four-year effort to bring one of the nation’s 10 largest grocers into the Fair Food Program, which unites farmworkers, growers, consumers, and 11 retail food leaders in support of fair wages and human labor standards. Some of Publix’s competitors, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have already joined the program along with companies like Chipotle, Burger King and McDonald’s.The program is well known for its call for an extra penny per pound on the price of tomatoes, but it also created the Fair Foods Standard Council, which operates to ensure participating farmers are meeting the program’s requirements.
Find Little’s full article here. And, for some of my earlier posts on related farmworker issues, check out the following:
- Tomatoes, tasty versus tasteless
- A Fair Deal for California’s Farm Workers
- Farm-labor contractors and the dirty secrets behind low-cost produce