Hungry for justice?
Picking 24,000 tomatoes a day at $400 a week, farm workers in the United States must pick 3 tomatoes to earn each cent. Those who pick our fruits and vegetables have historically been and remain among the worst paid workers in the U.S.; in fact, a 2000 Department of Labor survey states that 61% of farm workers have incomes below the poverty line. Many of those willing to work under such conditions are economic migrants from Latin America. Beyond poverty-level wages, they face multiple other abuses including withheld wages, confiscation of passports and visas, denial of healthcare and lack of even basic living conditions.
Economic justice, U.S. food policy and international migration flows may seem three distinct issues, but are intimately connected. Unfair trade policies have led to massive displacement as small-scale farmers in developing countries are unable to compete with highly subsidized commodities from the U.S.; in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), more than 1.5 million corn farmers were displaced. Many of those dislocated from their livelihoods came north in search of the means to support their families. The deeply interconnected nature of our globalized world means that our policy decisions have deep ramifications well beyond our borders.
Since 1971 the Center of Concern has been analyzing the systems behind economic and social injustice, uncovering the root causes while working to transform them. Below are a few resources to enhance your understanding of the economic and food policies perpetuating increased migration and labor exploitation. Take a look and join with the Center in advocating for a just and more humane world.
Center of Concern Resources on Agriculture Systems, Labor and Immigration
- Immigration (February 2008)
Immigration is not simply a domestic issue that can be reduced to a simplistic argument over what is legal and that is not. It is shaped through and through by interlocking forces in the larger global political and economic context that we are part of. What we are seeing in this country, as in so any other places around the world, is an unprecedented number of people driven to leave their homes and families in difficult, often heart-rending search for the means of survival and basic decency of life.
Co-sponsored by the Center of Concern and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference , the Agribusiness Accountability Initiative is a growing international network of academics, activists and food system experts from farm, labor, environment, consumer, church and development organizations, who recognize that corporate concentration and vertical integration among transnational agro-food companies threaten the sustainability of the most important industry on earth, the global food system.
- U.S. Poultry in the Global Economy: Impacts on women, livelihoods, and the environment (January 2007)
This briefing paper was prepared by Kristin Sampson, Center of Concern and Carole Morrison, Delmarva Community Alliance and is based on preliminary findings of an ongoing collaborative project in researching, monitoring and documenting the domestic and international impact of the U.S. poultry industry on farmers, workers and communities.
- Root Causes of Immigration (April 2006)
There are 60 countries in today’s world that are poorer than they were thirty years ago. A fifth of the world’s population (1.2 billion people) lives on less than $1 per day and almost half the world’s population, or 2.8 billion people, live on less than $2 a day. Every second, a child dies of malnutrition. Economic injustice still plagues most of the world, providing a strong impetus for immigration. Given this situation, any true solution to illegal immigration to the U.S. must take into account the root causes of the poverty from which many immigrants are trying to escape. This resource looks at these root causes, especially those which have been perpetuated by U.S. foreign policy which has not focused on the well-being of the poorest.
- Origins of the Church's Stance on Immigration (February 2008)
This three-page resource presents how and why the Catholic Church arrived at its position on immigration. It spells out the vision and values behind the Church's stance.
- A Systemic Approach to Occupational and Environmental Health (Pesticide Action Network North America, 2005)
This paper provides a comprehensive and systemic framework for understanding the role of corporations, the underlying structures that produce social and environmental problems, and opportunities for systemic change.
- Like Machines in the Fields: Workers without Rights in American Agriculture (Oxfam America, 2004)
This Oxfam America report exposes how brand name buyers are undermining labor standards by in the United States fresh produce industry by squeezing their supply chain to provide cheaper products and stricter standards. Under this arrangement, producers must substantially reduce their labor costs or be forced out of business and workers are paying the price by working harder for less money under more hazardous conditions.
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers - http://www.ciw-online.org/
The CIW is a community-based worker organization. CIW members are largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida; including harvesting tomatoes.