Most people tend to think of the
Sadly, as revealed in the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s “The Story of FLOC”, the average life expectancy of a migrant worker in the United States is a mere 49 years. Many migrant workers and their families suffer are plagued by infectious and chronic diseases in addition to malnutrition. Infant and maternal mortality rates are much higher than the national average, and countless migrant workers and their children are forced to live in cramped huts without running water. Because farmworkers are oftentimes paid by the agricultural corporations according to a “piece” rate (ex. a set price for a basket of tomatoes, strawberries, etc.), they are not subject to laws regarding minimum wage. Although I knew that farmworkers received unfair wages, I was surprised to learn that they may receive less than 1 percent of the price that consumers pay for the foods that they helped to provide. I was also horrified to learn that if migrant and H2A workers complain of ill treatment or unjust conditions, they face either being blacklisted from future employment.
Urbano Ramirez’s story was heartbreaking to me. It’s terrible to think that it took people two weeks to even find Urbano’s dead body under the tree, and the people who found the body were not even the supervisors; they were Urbano’s co-workers. Sadly, Urbano was not the only worker to die of heatstroke in 2006; 4 others also died. I really feel for Urbano’s and the other workers’ families. All of this just goes to show how inhumane the conditions that they had to work under were. Personally, I feel that the agribusinesses and supervisors are responsible for the deaths.
Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC’s founder, has worked throughout the years to provide hope for impoverished farmworkers by encouraging them to fight for their basic rights and to recognize their dignity as human beings. I think that it is important for workers to be able to have the right to play a role in making decisions that ultimately affect them. I found it ridiculous although not surprising that Campbell Soup Company lied about not employing farmworkers when in fact they were. Fortunately, Velasquez and others spoke out against
As a nation, we need to find ways in which we can provide ourselves with food without taking advantage of migrant workers. Some possible strategies, as outlined by the FLOC article, include extending the same legal rights given to other American workers to farmworkers. Agribusinesses can also give some of their benefits to basic production workers.
How much importance do you give to finding ways in which to better the lives of migrant workers?
What can we do to support the FLOC campaign? In what concrete ways can we help FLOC achieve justice for migrant workers and how can we get others involved in the effort?
What is your role in the system that is responsible for the invisibility, abuse, and exploitation suffered by immigrant workers? What are some ways in which you can change your role and work for bettering the lives of migrant workers?
What changes need to take place in our social and economic structures to ensure that migrant farmworkers are treated with respect?
What specific issues regarding migrant workers have you heard of recently or have been following? How do you feel about them? What do you think you can do?