Strawberry supply chain FarmworkersThere are about 20,000 strawberry workers in California. Their pay is about $8,500 a yearand most have not received a significant raise in 10 years. Many are paid less thanminimum wage. Strawberry workers earn about 10 cents per pint. Increasing that to 15cents, or by 50 percent, would hike the cost of a pint of berries by 5 cents.Strawberry pickers work as many as 12 hours a day. To pick the fruit, they must bend andstoop, resulting in chronic back injuries. The work is too hard for older pickers. Four out offive are under 30. Chronic back injuries are common. Workers labor in fields treated withpesticides such as methyl bromide, one of the most toxic chemicals in use. Yet, healthinsurance for the workers is a rarity.Child labor is not unusual. Women workers face sexual harassment in the fields.Bathrooms are often far from the workers or in disrepair and sometimes there is no cleandrinking water. Job security does not exist. Approximately 300,000 farmworkers in theU.S. are poisoned by pesticides annually. (info from ufw.org)Strawberry supply chain Farm Labor ContractorsFarm labor contractors recruit, transport, pay, and supervise farmworkers, which allowsfor notorious abuse. Contractors now hire 20 percent of farmworkers nationwide and 40percent in California. According to one California contractor, “Farm-labor contractingexists for the grower’s benefit..... By using a contractor, a grower avoids... labor laws.”(from foodfirst.org)In April 2011, the federal government filed a human-trafficking lawsuit against aCalifornia-based farm labor contractor and eight farms in the largest case of allegedforced labor of farm workers - 200 workers from Thailand - in the United States. The menwere brought to the United States under a federal H2-A visa program, which placesforeign workers on U.S. farms. But once the men arrived, their passports were confiscatedand they were not paid for their work. Many of the workers were barred from leaving thefarms and were forced to live in cramped, dirty conditions. In many cases, the workerswere threatened with deportation if they complained about the conditions.
Strawberry supply chain Retailers & WorkersGrocery stores make up one of the largest industries in the United States, providing 2.5million jobs in 2008. Young workers age 16 to 24 hold nearly one-third of grocery storejobs. Thirty percent of grocery-store workers are part-time, with the average workweekfor nonsupervisory workers at 29.4 hours, compared to 33.4 hours for all industries. In2008, nonsupervisory workers in grocery stores nationwide averaged $340 a week,compared with $608 a week for all workers in the private sector. Twenty-two percent ofgrocery store employees belong to a union or are covered by a union contract. (info fromBureau of Labor Statistics)A recent report based on worker surveys in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angelesfound that 23.5 percent grocery workers were paid less than the minimum wage, and 65percent were not paid overtime. (info from nelp.org)Strawberry supply chain Restaurants, Food Service, & WorkersThe restaurant industry, the largest fully-private sector employer in the U.S., employsmore than 10 million people. In 2009, the restaurant industry earned over $566 billion inrevenue. The national median hourly wage for food preparation and service workers in2009 was only $8.59, including tips. Restaurant workers on average made only $15,092in 2009 compared to $45,155 for the total private sector. The median hourly wage of allwhite workers surveyed in eight U.S. localities was $13.25, while that of workers of colorwas $9.54. Over 90 percent of restaurant workers surveyed reported that they do nothave health insurance through their employers. (info from rocunited.org)On average overall, non-union food service workers earn just $7.80 per hour, while unionworkers make an average of $10.32 per hour. In 2008 about 2 percent of workersbelonged to a union or were covered by a union contract.
Strawberry supply chain GrowersThere are about 270 strawberry growers on Californias central coast, producing about65 percent of the strawberries grown in California. U.S. growers make more money fromfresh strawberries than any other crop except fresh apples. (info from ufw.org)Swanton Berry Farms is one of the few unionized strawberry growers in the country. Thefarmworkers and other employees are represented by the United Farm Workers union.This grower also uses organic farming methods. You can read a copy of the union contracton the website http://www.swantonberryfarm.com/.Strawberry supply chain Cooler/Shipper Companies & WorkersThe strawberry industry is a $650-million-a year business. The cooler companies, alsoknown as shippers, are the brands of strawberries that we see in the grocery store. Coolercompanies usually do not directly employ the workers, and most do not grow thestrawberries themselves. Yet, this handful of large corporations dominate the strawberrygrowers. They cool strawberries after they are picked. They control prices, shipping andmarketing, plus how much workers are paid, whether they get benefits and how they aretreated. (info from ufw.org)
Strawberry supply chain SharecroppersThe goal of the sharecropping system is to shift the risk and regulatory burden from thelandholders and shippers to the workers. Under a typical scheme the grower will assignor rent an area of his acreage to a worker and their family for them to farm. It is then theresponsibility of the sharecropper to cover all expenses including the hiring and paymentof field workers. In many contracts the sharecropper is required to sell when and to whomthe grower appoints. This can lead to abuse if the grower has a contract with a particularshipper, which will profit the grower but may force the sharecropper to sell for less thanthe current market value of the berries. Further, if the sharecropper cannot meet theirbills then they are liable for the debt. In prior systems the sharecropper would simply notbe paid or receive any portion of the profits, now however, they must assume the debteven if it is to the grower from which they leased the land. This can lead to a spiralingcycle of debt. It has been estimated that up to half of the acreage in the Salinas-Watsonville area of California is being sharecropped. [Info from Eric Schlosser, REEFER MADNESS:SEX, DRUGS, AND CHEAP LABOR IN THE AMERICAN BLACK MARKET 80 (2003)]