Same Companies Exploiting U.S. Farm Workers Exploit Farm Workers Throughout the World

At the beginning of October 2018, President Baldemar Velasquez and two other staff members from FLOC traveled just outside of Cape Town, South Africa to the International Farm Worker Forum to meet with farm workers and organizations from throughout the world that work with and for farm workers. Many of the organizations are unions. The International Farm Worker Forum was sponsored by the IUF and the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.

FLOC knows that the same companies that violate farm workers’ human rights in the U.S. do so throughout the world. We also learned of the horrific conditions on tea and banana plantations, vineyards, apple orchards, palm oil, and in other agricultural industries.

It comes down to this: whenever we eat, drink, or smoke tobacco, we have to wonder about the working and living conditions of those who harvested and packaged our food, drink, and tobacco. These are human rights issues. But these are not ‘issues’ alone. There are precious lives tied to what we eat, drink, and smoke.

According to the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation:

“Farm workers are key actors in the food system. According to ILO statistics, every third worker in the world – around 1.1 billion people – is working in agriculture. Only around 40-50% of those workers are employed. Work in agriculture is characterized by the systematic violations of basic human and labour rights, including little or no right to join or be represented by a trade union and poor occupational health and safety. Agriculture ranks alongside mining and construction as the industries with highest rate of accidents. The widespread use of migrant, temporary and seasonal workers is a key feature of agriculture. 71% of all child labor takes place in agriculture. This means that 108 million children are working in the sector. Many children are occupied on small, family farms but one in five is hired in commercial agriculture.

Women are entering the agricultural workforce in increasing numbers and now make up about 40% of the hired workforce. Many have seasonal or temporary jobs. The precarious nature of their employment often means they are denied maternity protection and other rights and are vulnerable to sexual harassment.

This denial of farm workers rights is systematic and deliberate. It includes:

  • In some countries it is illegal for agricultural workers to form and join trade unions;
  • In others, agricultural workers are excluded from the protection of labour legislation or have lower standards of protection;
  • Lack of collective bargaining in agriculture;
  • Less than 20 % of agricultural workers have access to basic social protection;
  • Only 5% have access to any kind of labour inspection system.

At the same time, it is the farm workers who put the food on the table of people both in rural and urban areas worldwide. They should be at the center of debates about food systems, sustainable land use, climate change and global justice. In many countries, farm workers unions have developed unique forms of organizing and of union culture, as they deal with completely different situations and dynamics than unions in urban sectors.”

*The long quote from above comes from: