The Associated Press is reporting that the Colombian flower farm that Dole announced it would be closing last week was on the verge of finalizing a union contract for its workers. Although the reasons the company gave had more to do with a cost-cutting restructuring measure, it is an awfully strange coincidence that they chose the farm that was in the middle of union negotiations, don’t you think?
I was particularly shocked by this worker’s report of what a supervisor told her:
"He told us in Africa they work for a bowl of soup a day–that in Colombia we workers made too many demands," Yepes said angrily at an informal meeting of soon-to-be unemployed workers.
Hmmm, a bowl of soup a day. Is it safe to assume, then, that this is what Dole pays its own workers in South Africa?
The reporter also describes a sign he saw in the farm’s post-production room that reads, "Thank God I awake before dawn to work and not to look for work." Boy, between that and the bowl of soup, these jobs are sounding better and better.
This proves the point that the International Labor Rights Fund has been making–that simply giving workers the right to organize does not mean that they will actually be successful at organizing.
You know, it’s not hard to provide decent jobs on Latin American farms. Any number of flower farms are doing a good job. Remember that labor costs represent as little as a nickel for every flower sold. Even if a company doubled their wages or benefits, it would only add–what?– fifty cents or a dollar to the cost of a bouquet. Now, I know that many in the industry would say that they can hardly afford to increase prices in this competitive market, but I would argue that they also can’t afford this bad publicity. Telling a worker that she should be grateful for her $170/month salary because other workers only earn a bowl of soup does not put me in the mood to buy flowers.