Report Reveals Abuses in Labor Laws

A startling report by Bon Appétit Management Company and the United Farm Workers revealed serious abuses in farm labor laws in several U.S. states. Bon Appetit, the U.S. subsidiary of a British transnational catering company, partnered with the UFW to better understand labor conditions in U.S. farms and to improve productivity. Their findings have prompted the company to rewrite their Code of Conduct agreements with growers. Bon Appétit has pledged to refuse to work with farms that violate labor laws.

The findings of the report are shocking. Between 2005 and 2009 over 1/3 of farm workers reported earning less than $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage. In addition, over 1/4 of farm worker families reported incomes falling below the U.S. poverty line.

While poor pay was a significant problem, farm workers also receive fewer benefits than laborers in other sectors. For example, farm workers are prohibited from collective bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act, farm workers can be fired for joining labor unions, and farm workers unions have little power to compel companies or employers to negotiate wages or benefits.

Most shocking, farm workers frequently faced abuse at the hands of their employers. Many farm workers reported physical and sexual harassment. Many farm workers are not allowed to take mandated breaks and are threatened with deportation to compel silence.

The Bon Appétit/UFW report recommended several solutions to the problems faced by farm workers, most important being increasing the visibility of farm workers in the U.S. Due to the increasing mechanization of agriculture and the increasing divide between urban and rural economies, farm labor is invisible to many Americans. The USDA is also committed to reestablishing this link between consumers and producers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer