Blog: Flowers

Stopping Violence at Work: A Victory, and a Call to Action

In a world where longtime serial predators are plotting their return to the workplace almost immediately after being ousted for their behavior, it’s time for some good news. This month, unions and worker organizations traveled to Geneva to negotiate a new international standard aimed at stopping the tidal wave of gender-based violence in every workplace. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a tripartite structure made up of government, employer and worker representatives, and today marks the close of two weeks of debate and negotiation among the parties.

Remembering Stephen Coats / Recordando a Stephen Coats

It is with great sadness that we post this news.  Stephen Coats, Executive Director of USLEAP, passed away on April 2, 2013.  Stephen was a tremendous friend and a tireless advocate of workers’ rights.  He touched so many people around the world, serving as a leader in building worker solidarity in the Americas.  Stephen’s dedication and humility inspired so many worker rights advocates.  This is a tremendous loss for all.

Guidance for Consumers on Valentine's Day

Chocolate has been flagged as a sweet industry that’s acquiring a sour reputation for its pervasive use of forced and child labour.  Over 109,000 children work under atrocious conditions in the cocoa industry of the Ivory Coast, and an estimated 10,000 of these children are enslaved.  With Ghana and the Ivory Coast producing around 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, it is more than likely that each of us has consumed chocolate produced at the expense of a child’s freedom. 

The U.S. – Colombia FTA: a bad deal for workers and labor rights

In April of 2011, the U.S. and Colombian governments announced the signing of the “Labor Action Plan,” in an effort to address concerns about impunity for labor rights violations in Colombia.   While far from a comprehensive reform plan, the Action Plan did create benchmarks in key areas, including hiring additional labor inspectors, enhanced protections for union leaders facing death threats, and closing gaps in Colombian laws that allow employers to use “labor cooperatives” to avoid the legal responsibilities of a direct employment relationship.  

Stand in Solidarity: International Day of the Flower Worker

The majority of Colombian flower workers receive the minimum wage, which covers approximately 45% of the food budget for a family. Workers often rely on overtime pay to compensate for insufficient wages, but Law 789, passed in 2002, defines the working day as 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., establishing that overtime rates are only applicable outside of that time frame. Obligatory and unpaid overtime is common, and workers comply for fear that they will lose their jobs.

The Dank Smell of Roses

Years ago, the disparity between workers’ wagers and company profits was not quite so huge. International competition has pressured companies to demand more and more of each worker, without increasing their wages. Retired agronomist Alberto Caro who once owned a share in a flower farm chose not to succumb. He told Farthing, “I sold because I could see that as international competition grew we would be forced to squeeze our workers harder and harder.”

Flower Workers’ Conditions in Finca Guacari Will Be Taken to the ILO Committee on Application of Standards

Under these circumstances, on September 18, Sintraguacari decided to go on strike in defense of their labor rights and to protest the unfair dismissal of seven of the union’s members. While these rights are recognized by domestic and international legislations, their enforcement is very poor in most of the cut flower industry in Colombia. See ILRF's Fairness in Flowers Campaign page for more on the general working conditions for cut-flower workers.

“Riegel Deceits, Exploits, Steals and Lays Off Workers”: Temporary workers in the Colombian Cut-Flower Sector on Strike

According to the workers on strike, the workers at Riegel have not been paid their social security for the past 11 months, in spite of the amount for social security being deducted from their wages. Event though the company paid part of the wages owed in response to the first week of the strike, many other workers have not received any compensation, including the workers leading the resistance. Workers are also owed their family subsidies and were not given their uniforms and appropriate working attire during their time at Riegel. Magdalena Toscano has worked for two CTAs. Under a plastic man-made shack put up by the strikers, she tells me in her previous job she worked for five months and was never paid.


Search form

Browse blog by issue

Browse blog by industry

Browse blog by country