Like Machines in the Fields
Workers without rights in American agriculture
Published: Mar 15, 2004
"The right to a just wage, the right to work free of forced labor, the right to organize... are routinely violated when it comes to farmworkers in the United States."
—Lucas Benítez, winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award for 2003.
In the United States nearly two million farmworkers, mainly immigrants, toil without rights, earn sub-living wages and exist in dehumanizing conditions. In the fields of Florida, California, North Carolina and other states, one million farmers earn less than $7,500 per year. To earn $50 a day a tomato farmworker must pick nearly two tons of tomatoes. The reason? The supply-chain model of global economics has tightened profit margins. In 1990 growers received 41 percent of the retail prices of tomatoes; by 2000 they were receiving barely 25 percent. Value is passed up the chain, while workers at the bottom pay the price.