Working conditions of field migrant workers, who is responsible?

wedigfood

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In his new book The Chain, Ted Genoways, describes the Current State of Hog Slaughterhouses.

The animals, as most of us know, suffer greatly and then are obviously killed, but what about the workers who slave away in these plants. Ted Genoways describes conditions not much better, or in fact, possibly worse that what Upton Sinclair described 100 years ago in The Jungle.

I am sure no one reading this, assuming everyone who is, is a vegan, that slaughterhouses shouldn’t exist and therefore the workers, mostly immigrants, would theoretically not have to endure such vile conditions.

What about the workers who pick our vegetables, what are there lives like? How much responsibility do vegans have for field worker’s conditions and can we do something about it? Shop locally, always buy organic? What else?
 

flyingsnail

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Why would buying locally or organic, in themselves, do anything about the working conditions of immigrant workers? I can't think of a single farm around here that doesn't hire immigrant workers.

I think this is a general issue and not one specific to food, for example, you'll find many immigrant workers in factories throughout the country producing all sorts of goods. You'll find them cleaning peoples homes, washing people's cars, etc.
 

ledboots

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A CSA is a good way to avoid buying from companies that exploit immigrant labor.

Sweetwater Organic Farm | Building community from the ground up.

" Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was introduced to the U.S. in 1985 to promote fresh, locally grown food and foster social and ecological responsibility. CSAs establish a direct partnership between farmers and consumers, allowing members to share the risks and rewards of farming while enjoying a sense of responsibility for appropriate land stewardship.

What is a CSA Member?

Families and individuals become CSA Members by paying a seasonal fee (payment plans available), which entitles them to a share of our weekly vegetable harvest. The farm is also open to non-members. While non-members are not entitled to a weekly share, they are encouraged to enjoy our Sunday Farmers’ Market, monthly workshops, volunteer opportunities, special events, and farm tours."
 
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wedigfood

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Why would buying locally or organic, in themselves, do anything about the working conditions of immigrant workers?

A quote and three links that explain why buying organic, i.e. food without pesticides, improves the working conditions of farm workers.

"Pesticides pose risks of short- and long- term illness to farmworkers and their families. Acute (immediate) health effects of pesticide exposure include rash, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and headaches. More serious acute effects include difficulty breathing, seizures, loss of consciousness and death. Chronic (long-term) effects can result in cancer, neurological disorders, hormonal and reproductive health problems, birth defects and infertility. Even low levels of pesticide exposure over time can lead to these chronic health effects."

Pesticide Safety | Farmworker Justice

Farmworkers | Pesticide Action Network

Effect of chronic pesticide exposure in farm workers of a Mexico co... - PubMed - NCBI
 

wedigfood

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A CSA is a good way to avoid buying from companies that exploit immigrant labor.

Sweetwater Organic Farm | Building community from the ground up.

" Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was introduced to the U.S. in 1985 to promote fresh, locally grown food and foster social and ecological responsibility. CSAs establish a direct partnership between farmers and consumers, allowing members to share the risks and rewards of farming while enjoying a sense of responsibility for appropriate land stewardship."

Great idea, will looks for a similar situation in my area. Although I do most of my shopping at Erewhon market near me , all organic fresh vegetables.
 
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Diana

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In my mind there is no doubt that the four words "ANIMAL LIBERATION - HUMAN LIBERATION" are the ones that should be foremost in our minds if we wish to move towards a world of equality.

We cannot continue separating the different struggles for justice. They are all linked and they have the same common cause : that might is right.

When we demand that zoos be closed or that there are no more animals in circuses, we should also question the whole system of human incarceration too (prisons). When we see a donkey that toils all day carrying tourists up a steep hill, we should also be thinking of the humans who are being exploited so cruelly by our capitalist system.

We are all animals.

(I just came back to edit this to add that, for example, when I tell people why I don't wear the skin of animals, I also always tell them about the horrific conditions of the low-castes in India who are hired for curing the leather. People have absolutely no idea. In Europe, most of the leather comes from India (cows, which are "sacred" in some areas of the country are just transported - and you can imagine the conditions - to places where they are not sacred.)
 
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flyingsnail

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A quote and three links that explain why buying organic, i.e. food without pesticides, improves the working conditions of farm workers.
Organic produce isn't food without pesticides, there are a variety of pesticides that are approved for organic farming. The difference between organic farming and conventional farming is in the type of pesticides, organic farmers can only use pesticides and fertilizers that are derived from natural sources (e.g., animal byproducts, insect extracts, plant extracts, etc).

"Pesticides pose risks of short- and long- term illness to farmworkers and their families. Acute (immediate) health effects of pesticide exposure include rash, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and headaches.
This goes for both organic and non-organic pesticides and in both cases health risks can be controlled with a proper work environment so the real issue here is that employers are providing their employees with the proper protective equipment. But there are many other ways farms can abuse workers and I don't see why a conventional farm would be anymore likely to abuse their workers as an organic farm.
 

flyingsnail

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A CSA is a good way to avoid buying from companies that exploit immigrant labor.
How so? A farm participating in a CSA program can just as easily exploit their workers as one that is not part of such a program.
 

ledboots

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How so? A farm participating in a CSA program can just as easily exploit their workers as one that is not part of such a program.
Yes, I suppose they could, but certainly are less likely to. My local CSA requires hours of work on the farm as part of payment for the shares. They also hire interns to help, who get room and vegan board for the season, as well as valuable experience in organic farming, crop rotation, educating others, etc.

There is a large educational component to our local farm, so they also have tours for local schoolchildren's field trips. I and my children have worked on the farm, learned a lot, and had fun. I also gave tours there one season. Never did I see the kinds of poverty-stricken Mexican immigrants bent in the fields picking strawberries in the heat that I see on conventional farms.

The world is not perfect, csa farms are not perfect, humans are not perfect, vegans are not perfect. We just do the best we can in our circumstances. Nitpicking is boring, pointless, and dreary.
 
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wedigfood

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In my mind there is no doubt that the four words "ANIMAL LIBERATION - HUMAN LIBERATION" are the ones that should be foremost in our minds if we wish to move towards a world of equality.

We cannot continue separating the different struggles for justice. They are all linked and they have the same common cause : that might is right.

I whole heartily agree. I have two sites, wedigfood.com that deals primarily with animal liberation and vegan diets and fairtrademarket.com, that deals with human slavery, fair trade and Buddhism. Recently I have been thinking of combining the two since as you say "we cannot continue separating the different struggles of justice."

"We are all connected" Thich Nhat Hanh
 

wedigfood

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Organic produce isn't food without pesticides, there are a variety of pesticides that are approved for organic farming. The difference between organic farming and conventional farming is in the type of pesticides, organic farmers can only use pesticides and fertilizers that are derived from natural sources (e.g., animal byproducts, insect extracts, plant extracts, etc).


This goes for both organic and non-organic pesticides and in both cases health risks can be controlled with a proper work environment so the real issue here is that employers are providing their employees with the proper protective equipment. But there are many other ways farms can abuse workers and I don't see why a conventional farm would be anymore likely to abuse their workers as an organic farm.

I looked further into this and I agree, both organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides. Which means much more work is needed to find less or non-toxic methods to keep plants pest free.

I think the chances of employers providing appropriate and current protective equipment to their farm workers is extremely low based on their current working conditions; CSA farms could provide a better model for conventional farms to emulate.
 

flyingsnail

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Yes, I suppose they could, but certainly are less likely to. My local CSA requires hours of work on the farm as part of payment for the shares.
Some CSA are just a community of people growing things, but at least here, most are done by larger farms that only require you to pay a fee and people are going to be no more privy about workers than other farms.

Never did I see the kinds of poverty-stricken Mexican immigrants bent in the fields picking strawberries in the heat that I see on conventional farms.
Most people, immigrant or otherwise, in poverty don't work in agriculture and even immigrant agricultural workers tend to get paid more than they would working at a fast food joint, etc. In any case, I don't think agricultural work poses any special issues in terms of immigrant working conditions. While not the norm, immigrant workers are abused in a wide variety of industries in the US.
 

ledboots

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Some CSA are just a community of people growing things, but at least here, most are done by larger farms that only require you to pay a fee and people are going to be no more privy about workers than other farms.


Most people, immigrant or otherwise, in poverty don't work in agriculture and even immigrant agricultural workers tend to get paid more than they would working at a fast food joint, etc. In any case, I don't think agricultural work poses any special issues in terms of immigrant working conditions. While not the norm, immigrant workers are abused in a wide variety of industries in the US.

Farm Worker Conditions Likened to Modern Slavery (VIDEO)
"For every 32 pounds of tomatoes Leonel Perez picks on Florida farmlands, he says he receives a piece rate of 50 cents.

"That's a piece rate that has not changed in over 30 years," the migrant worker noted.

A report issued this month by The Center for Progressive Reform highlights declining labor conditions in the United States. Among its findings, the report states that the farm industry's over-reliance on "contingent labor" -- or short-term contractors -- has allowed employers to pay low wages and skirt regulations. This while Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that one farm worker dies on the job every day and hundreds more are injured.

Perez is part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of immigrant farm workers in Florida that's fighting for fair wages and improved working conditions. Speaking to HuffPost Live's Jacob Soboroff, Perez said that he and his fellow migrant workers are forced to endure substandard working conditions, all for an average annual salary of just $10,000."
----------------------------

Migrant Workers and America's Harvest of Shame | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

"For backbreaking work, kneeling 48 hours a week on crippled joints, 29-year-old Alejandro Ruiz and other farmworkers are not making much to live on. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour does not apply to farmworkers. Workers without documents are often paid less than those with documents. In most cases, they are too frightened to speak out."

---------------------
 

flyingsnail

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"For every 32 pounds of tomatoes Leonel Perez picks on Florida farmlands, he says he receives a piece rate of 50 cents.
This, in itself, doesn't mean anything. How many tomatoes can they pick in an hour? Also this is just hearsay from one person, what are the average rates? In particular from farms that are following regulations.

In any case, my point wasn't that immigrant workers don't get exploited in the agricultural industry but rather that the exploitation of immigrant workers is a general problem and these workers get exploited in a variety of industries. For example, in California there is a special regulatory body just to regulate the apparel industry which largely deals with the exploitation of immigrant workers.
 

ledboots

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The federal minimum wage does not apply to farmworkers, negating your earlier statement equating it with fast food employment. But you leave that out of your reply.

You know, it is really obnoxious to ignore the main point of each post and pick out things to start a new argument about. The article I posted that you quoted a snippet of went on to say that the piece rate for tomatoes has not changed in decades. Think people were making scads of money back then, or a lot less now?

The article only cited one person's experience? Well, the article you didn't post had zero people's experiences. Just flinging your opinion around is lots of fun for you, I surmise.

So you I will try not to respond to anymore.
 

flyingsnail

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The federal minimum wage does not apply to farmworkers, negating your earlier statement equating it with fast food employment. But you leave that out of your reply.
I left it out of my reply because it is, in general, not true. The fair labor standards act, which includes minimum wage, applies to farm workers. There is no general exemption for farm workers but there are some special exceptions and the same can be said of other industries as well. But just because a particular employee is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime portion of the standards act doesn't mean they aren't receiving wages that are equal to or greater than the minimum wage.

The example from the article you quoted tries to make it sound very dire but fails to cite real information about agricultural wages. According the BLS the median hourly wage for agricultural workers is greater than the minimum wage:

Agricultural Workers : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

So I stand by what I said.

The article only cited one person's experience? Well, the article you didn't post had zero people's experiences. Just flinging your opinion around is lots of fun for you, I surmise.
Right, I didn't cite an article, but that doesn't mean I'm just "flinging my opinion around". The articles on the Huffington Post, or partisan news organizations in general, tend to be little more than propaganda.

And, just to reiterate, my point here has been merely that the exploitation of immigrant workers is a general problem and not specific to agricultural workers.
 

wedigfood

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I left it out of my reply because it is, in general, not true. The fair labor standards act, which includes minimum wage, applies to farm workers. There is no general exemption for farm workers but there are some special exceptions and the same can be said of other industries as well. But just because a particular employee is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime portion of the standards act doesn't mean they aren't receiving wages that are equal to or greater than the minimum wage.

Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States. They often work 10 or more hours a day with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous pesticides, and die at 4 times the rate of other working youth. Farmworker children drop out of school in alarming numbers

Children can legally work on any farm at age 12, with their parents’ permission, and it's not uncommon to see children as young as 7 and 8 in the fields. During peak harvest season, the children work up to 14-hour days, and earn far less than minimum wage.

Agriculture is the most dangerous occupation open to children in the United States. Children work with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous chemicals, and die at four times the rate of other young workers. Yet they can legally do hazardous work in agriculture from which they would be banned by law in any other industry.

Source: TAKE ACTION: End Child Labor in US Agriculture | Human Rights Watch


More info US: Child Workers in Danger on Tobacco Farms | Human Rights Watch
 

flyingsnail

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Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States. They often work 10 or more hours a day with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous pesticides, and die at 4 times the rate of other working youth.
Hundreds of thousand? I think that is a profound exaggeration, according the the BLS there are ~750,000 agricultural jobs in the US. Also many children working on farms are children working on their family farms.

Children can legally work on any farm at age 12, with their parents’ permission, and it's not uncommon to see children as young as 7 and 8 in the fields. During peak harvest season, the children work up to 14-hour days, and earn far less than minimum wage.
Children between 12~14 can only legally work on farms if their parents also work on the farm , can only work during non-school hours, can't work anywhere near 14 hours a day and aren't allowed to do hazardous agricultural work. Here is the youth employment guide for agricultural employers:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/AG/ag_pocket_guide.pdf

Banning children on farms would actually hurt small local farms as many of them are family farms and have their children working on the farm.