Saturday, April 10, 2010

The price of cheap food = modern day slavery

No, I'm not exaggerating. I just finished watching a documentary called Immokalee
(from a free documentary site worth visiting) about the modern slave conditions of tomato pickers in southeastern Florida.

A couple of years ago, I began to hear the story of Immokalee from places like Grist, the NYT Magazine, and Raj Patel, but I didn't dig deeper to learn the real story: large corporate buyers for restaurant chains like Taco Bell are paying slave wages for their tomatoes.

The domino effect of cheap fast food quickly translates into poor living conditions and poor health of the primarily Latino, Mayan, and Haitian day laborers. Perhaps this story is all too familiar--cheap corporate labor leading to cheap consumer prices-- but what is different is that it's happening right here in the US. What is different about this story is that there is an organization called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fighting against these conditions - an organization that has been a force for over 10 years.

So what are these slave labor conditions? (Quoted from the CIW website)
  • "Florida tomato pickers earn an average of 45 cents per 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes, a rate that has not risen significantly since 1978. At today’s piece rate, workers have to pick over 2 ½ tons of tomatoes just to earn the equivalent of Florida minimum wage for a 10-hour workday.
  • As a result of intentional exclusion from key New Deal labor reform measures, farmworkers do not have the right to overtime pay, nor the right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers.
  • In the most extreme conditions, farmworkers are held against their will and forced to work for little or no pay, facing conditions that meet the stringent legal standards for prosecution under modern-day slavery statutes."
In honor of the 04/18 Farmworker Freedom March, organized by the Coalition of Immokalee, I will dig up some more information on this story. For now, you can put images to these words here.

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