Monday, September 5, 2011

Slave workers in the South--Labor Day, notwithstanding

Parades and celebrations honoring the laborer today, as the U.S. celebrates Labor Day, overshadow the ugly reality that agricultural laborers continue to work in conditions that border on slavery.

The Coalition of Immokollee Workers in Florida are keeping the labor movement alive in a nation that is seeing unions successfully destroyed, one-by-one and even entire states at-a-time. In the mid-1990's, when I met a Catholic Sister who ministered to the field workers, I encountered this modern labor movement of farmworkers who are mobilized to demand justice. Since then I've seen the Coalition in the news, in the major media, and prominently featured at the annual SOA protest at Fort Benning, GA.

This weekend, they continue their campaign for Fairly Traded food with a 200 mile bicycle trek to Publix corporate headquarters, called "A Pilgrimage to Publix." They simply want to talk to Florida's largest corporation, but they've been stonewalled for the last two years.

Fairly traded coffee and chocolate are just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. In a climate when job creation is on the discussion table, we need to also keep the focus on the quality of the jobs and the conditions of the laborers.

My brother-in-law recommends that I read Tomatoland. It has rave reviews. Fair treatment for the worker is only part of the problem with the tomato industry. By helping the worker, we're helping ourselves as well.

Best policy is to "eat fresh, eat local."


One Fly said...

I hope no one hurts them. If union numbers would happen to increase the same violent clashes that erupted over a 100 years ago would happen again.

And of course the opposition will be fueled by the corporations.

Billie Greenwood said...

Thanks for an empathic comment, One. I think they got through OK, but I'll check the news tonight to verify that. It is dangerous, as you've pointed out we have many historic examples where people were hurt. I need to point out here that the bicycle pilgrimage was mobilized and executed by faith-based supporters of the farm workers.

Now, that's the kind of religion I can believe in.