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Slavery is alive and well…11 Jan 2008 01:44 pm

nobodies1.jpgYes folks, even in the great United States of America.

Today is the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, a day created to help us open our eyes to the more than 12 million around that globe that are trapped in forced labor, everything from sexual slaves to tomato pickers.

I’m not talking tomato pickers in some far away land. I’m talking right here, in Florida.

I just finished a book called “Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy”, by John Bowe, and I can’t help but think it should be required reading in colleges, even high schools. It paints a horrific picture of working conditions for low wage, low skilled workers, many of which are immigrants.

“There are many reasons why immigrant workers in the United States are reluctant to discuss bad, dangerous and abusive situations with their employers, much less with bolillos, or whites. Fear of losing their jobs and being labeled troublemakers is only one. Another reason, of course, is that immigrant workers live in constant fear of being seized by la Migra — the Immigration and Naturalization Services — and deported. Unscrupulous labor contractors use this implicit threat of exposure to keep workers in line. Workers often borrow money to travel north from loan sharks back home at interest rates as high as 25 percent per month. If they are deported, the loan is foreclosed. Frequently homes are put up as collateral, so deportation can be a financial calamity for an entire family.

All of this helps explain why South Florida has rapidly become one of the most exploitive labor environments in the country, earning the designation by a former prosecutor with the Justice Department of “ground zero for modern slavery.”

This is not just some bleeding heart liberal junk from a wacky author folks.

This Human Trafficking Awareness day was created thanks to the passing of a bipartisan resolution in the Senate last year. U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Dianne Feinstein introduced it.

Cornyn says:

“Americans would be shocked to learn that slavery still exists today—not just in remote parts of the world, but hidden away in communities across our nation. So we need to improve protection of victims, punish the criminals and prevent more innocent people from suffering this fate.”

Author Bowe points the finger at all of us a consumers. We need to know where our produce and products are coming from, and if the companies that make those products are treating their employees fairly, or at least humanely.
I know we all want the cheapest goods possible. But corporations have created a situation where they produce food at low, low levels and that translates into substandard jobs for farm workers in particular.
Some interesting stats from Bowe’s book:

From 1929 to 1958, Americans spent between 18 and 25 percent of their disposable income on food. From the mid-1980s to the present, the share has dropped from about 12 percent to about 10 percent. How is it that we’ve become a vastly wealthier country with a far cheaper supply of food, we’ve succeeded in creating a food system that can’t pay farmworkers a living wage?
The food sector (food, groceries, food processing and restaurant businesses together) is worth about a trillion dollars a year in the United States and is second only to pharmaceuticals in profitability. Considering that the American public gives some $47 billion per year in direct subsidies to agricultural producers and billions more in tax breaks, research allocations to universities, marketing initiatives, subsidized water, food aid programs to poor countries, and so on, it is blind idiocy or willful deceit to say the money just isn’t there.”

He makes some good points. I know so many people that spend tons of money on the latest electronic gadgets but bitch about paying too much for a tomato at the store. OK, ok, I’ve done that too.

We need to get our priorities straight. Every individual should get a shot at having a descent life, no?

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Death in the family — will you be docked pay…08 Jan 2008 06:58 pm
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Jesus and the picket line…02 Jan 2008 05:27 pm
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Time off, and the no New Year’s resolution rule…02 Jan 2008 08:32 am
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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!01 Jan 2008 10:17 am
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