Nice Greek salad!
Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep spoke to reporter Richard Marosi about his 18-month investigation in Mexico. Wednesday’s story in the series follows Ricardo Martinez, a farmworker who tried, unsuccessfully, to leave a labor camp.
According to Marosi, the farmworkers are “the invisible people of Mexico, the poorest, the most discriminated.” That’s what makes them so vulnerable to abuse in farm labor camps.
The camps are in remote regions of west and northwest Mexico, and attached to the megafarms that produce millions of pounds of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables, much of them bound for the U.S.
“They live in rooms six-by-eight generally, and shed-like housing, sometimes no furniture. They sleep on scraps of cardboard,” Marosi says.
The workers are forced to buy food from the company stores where the prices are heavily inflated. Even making $8 to $12 dollars a day, which is more than they might make at home, they can’t keep up with the high costs.
“A lot of these places, they illegally withhold the wages of the workers; they’re there on three-month contracts, they’re not paid until the end,” he says. That means they don’t even have the money to catch a bus and escape the farm.
And America is supposed to live in eternal shame over slavery? These serfs are imprisoned in the full light of day in the 21st Century.
And whom do we blame?
Marosi says a lot of the blame lies with firms who project an image of social responsibility or tote their many badges of certifications from labor groups. In reality, they are not actually enforcing their standards.
Mexico doesn’t have a government to enforce the law? Did anyone tell President Obama? What would Octavio Paz and Frida Kahlo say about this human rights catastrophe?
Me, I blame the people whose insatiable demand creates this appalling situation: vegetarians. They may think that cucumber salad with tomato wedges in private is harmless. Yet how many more must suffer for their selfish needs?
I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger, my good man, and very much hold the pickle and the lettuce.