FLOWERS. We give them to our loved ones as acts of appreciation, compassion, and kindness. A flower has the power to brighten a person’s day and fill a person with joy. We run to the grocery store last minute to pick up a perfect bouquet for our mother, our friend, or our spouse. We receive a lovely assortment, and don’t stop to think “How did I get roses in the middle of winter?” The last thing we would ever ask ourselves is, “Who grew these beautiful flowers?”
The truth is most of the flowers that Americans buy are imported from Colombia or Ecuador, where fundamental labor rights of flower workers are consistently violated by growing companies. Flower production can also be found in the Netherlands, Israel, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mexico, Central America, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and more recently in Japan, China and India. This is an industry that is competing in a race to the bottom in terms of labor conditions. Workers are routinely forced to work overtime without additional pay, are exposed to toxic chemicals without proper training and equipment, and are deprived the right to collectively bargain for decent wages and safer conditions. Women, who make up the majority of flower workers, face sexual harassment and violence at astonishing rates. In some countries, children are found working in flower cultivation. The practices of many farms, such as the disposal of toxic wastes into nearby rivers and lakes, place the workers and surrounding communities in serious danger.
Fairness in Flowers Campaign
The International Labor Rights Forum began its “Fairness in Flowers” campaign in 2003, forging collaborative relationships with unions and NGOs in Colombia and Ecuador, and bringing the concerns mentioned above into the public eye in the US. They have conducted research on the ground, pressured companies such as Dole to respect the rights of their employees, and testified before Congress, the UN, and the State Department. ILRF has organized speaking tours across the U.S., enabling American consumers to hear the firsthand experiences of South American flower workers. ILRF has also formed alliances with other organizations to help flower workers assert their labor rights. ILRF continues to be committed to bringing justice to the flower workers.
This information has been prepared by the International Labor Rights Forum to continue to educate on the alarming issues that flower workers face and to provide the tools for change.