Friday, October 20, 2006

Colombian Flower Industry

I guess this is part of a series on the international flower industry or something since I just talked about the rise of the Chinese.

In order that the United States continues to get its flowers as cheaply as possible, conditions in Colombia have declined significantly.

I think I'll list the problems we need to know about rather than describe them in an essay.

1. The one unionized flower farm in Colombia has closed. God forbid workers actually be treated with dignity. Of course, that farm is owned by Dole. The workers were fighting against long hours and exposure to pesticides.

2. The even cheaper Chinese flowers are undermining the South Americans, leading to the layoffs of 2600 workers in Colombia and 900 in Ecuador.

3. This line from a manager at one of the closed plants is great, "He told us in Africa they work for a bowl of soup a day--that in Colombia we workers made too many demands." Remember, this is an American company running this. This represents the contempt American businesses still have for unions, both in the US and around the world.

4. Like many agricultural products imported to the US, the Colombian flowers are heavily doused in chemicals illegal in the US, both exposing workers to poisons and bringing some of those poisons into our homes.

Next time you're buying flowers, try to remember the industrial process that takes place to get them from Colombia to the your local flower dealer.