Forced labor, sexual assault, and abuse are not normal dinner-table topics for the relaxing Labor Day weekend. But, sadly, this is often part of the story behind so much of the produce that winds up on our plates in America. As Justice Department prosecutors noted this spring, when three defendants in Georgia were sentenced to federal prison for human trafficking on U.S. farms, "These men engaged in facilitating modern-day slavery," writes Sara Polon on thehill.com.
As the co-founder and CEO of a values-focused soup company, I have preached endlessly about the need to know the "story of our food." And although we've made strides in drawing awareness to sustainability in the agricultural industry, we have not paid as much attention, perhaps, to the vulnerable and often unprotected laborers who do the actual work. That no longer should be acceptable to any of us. What good is it to pat ourselves on the back for buying locally sourced organic tomatoes and onions if those vegetables were picked by farm workers who endured abusive conditions?
There are more than 1.2 million hired farm laborers in this country. They pick the tomatoes for our summer BLTs, the corn for our Labor Day barbecues, and the strawberries for our fruit cups. They do this work by hand. We've mechanized so much in our food system, but most crops are still picked manually by farm laborers. And these laborers are more vulnerable than ever.
We, the consumers, have the power to stop this and reform the food supply chain for good.
One group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, is working to end abuse in the agricultural system. These farmworkers say they have seen it all: A farm manager reportedly beating a worker simply for stopping to take a sip of water—undocumented workers hidden inside walk-in freezers to dodge immigration officials.
Read the complete article at www.thehill.com.