Living in a dirt-floored hut with no running water or toilet facilities…no bed to sleep on…no pay for months until the boss says the job is done…necessities for sale a the company store for many times their street value to keep workers in debt. This sounds like turn of the century labor practices at coal mines or factories in US industries. I am actually describing modern-day conditions for migrant farmers who work the fruit and vegetable fields in Baja California, 200 miles south of California. Now they are on strike.
In addition to the work stoppage, striking workers shut down 55 miles of the Trans-Peninsular Highway, a key thoroughfare for moving goods from Baja California to points north, the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada (in Spanish) reported after the strike started on March 17.
Produce is rotting in the warehouses and fields. Trucks are being waylaid and commerce is suffering. The price for US consumers for ‘fresh’ vegetables from foods that originate a half continent away may rise, there may be shortages of produce. Fact is the ranchers and plantation owners of these Mexican companies will do whatever is required of them by the US buyer. If we insist on fair pay and conditions for workers that produce our foods then it will be provided. If, instead, we insist that this produce be cheaper than humanly possible, then the conditions will be inhumane. If the only thing we consider is price and profit margins then you end up with babies in the fields, near-slavery and economic imprisonment. One thing that I know for certain. If I go to the farmer’s market on the weekend and buy produce from the farmer, I am not supporting any of these conditions. I may pay more for what I purchase, even though it wasn’t freighted three thousand miles to reach me, but the food and the farmer have benefited from my attention. If you want to know more about this issue, you can rent or purchase this documentary, “Food Chains”. If you are just starting to move away from eating processed foods, sweets and fast foods, it’s still better to get your vegetables at the store than to not get vegetables because the conditions under which they are produced are immoral. The important thing, if you are just changing one small thing at a time is to successfully change before you move on to the next small change. By all means eat fruits and vegetables from your grocer instead of boxed, bagged, and bottled artificial foods. When you are ready, join us at the farmer’s market to get even better vegetables and meats.