IRLF: Child Labor, Union Negotiations on Flower Farms
Thanks to the International Labor Rights Fund for sending on news of two labor issues on Latin American flower farms. Before I get into this, let me just remind you that there are some excellent certification programs that can help ensure that the flowers you buy met some standards of social and environmental responsibility. There are important differences between those programs, which I discuss here and in greater detail in Flower Confidential.
Now, on to the news:
This story in El Comercio, Quito’s daily newspaper, reports on a new study from Ecuador’s ministry of labor and employment about child labor on a variety of farms, including flower farms. The article’s in Spanish, but here’s the bottom line:
The investigation covered 595 farms and employers. Roughly 10% of the farms were found to have some child labor. Overall, 88 children were found working on farms. 60% were between the ages of 15 and 17, and 40% were under 15 years old. (Ecuador’s labor laws do allow kids age 15 and older to work with some limitations, but there were violations found based on those limitations.)
The flower farms that were found to be in violation of the law included Nevaflor, Lindaflor, Florana Farms, and Sunlight Farms. None of these farms have been certified through VeriFlora or Ecuador’s program Flor del Ecuador. The PR manager for Ecuador’s flower grower association, Expoflores, said that he was pleased that they had been sanctioned. He went on to say that child labor affects the image of the entire floriculture sector. (I met with officials from Expoflores when I was in Ecuador researching the book, and it is clear that they are very sincere about wanting their growers to meet the highest possible standards so that buyers continue to demand Ecuadorian flowers.)
Now on to another alert from IRLF, this time concerning the right of workers on Dole flower farms in Colombia to organize. Go here to read more and to send a note to Dole. Workers on two farms have been attempting to form a union for two years, but, according to the press release, Dole has used various tactics to block their attempts. As IRLF staff have pointed out to me, giving the workers the right to unionize is one thing, but very few flower farms are actually successful at forming a union. As you can imagine, it’s hard for workers to get the word out about problems they encounter, especially when the products they make are mostly shipped out of the country for sale abroad. IRLF does a good job of giving voice to those workers, so please consider supporting them, and remember to ask about certified flowers when you go shopping.