Social media users and people around the globe finally paid attention to the laborers’ strike in San Quintin, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Yet, this is not a new problem, or something that happened just yesterday; the subhuman conditions of agricultural workers in general are terrible, such that in the twenty-first century unconscious consumerism, globalization and international markets have blinded us to how we support modern slavery.
The truth is that corruption in the country is rampant, and the contracts given to transnationals and other companies contribute to this. Globalization is behind the miserable salaries and terrible conditions; people in the First World, where wages are higher, are saving money on products priced cheap through exploiting others in Third World countries. Injustice and corruption has reached unthinkable levels, so high that one wonders how much a life is worth, how valuable is dignity at work? In other words, how valuable is your life?
Source: Global Voices Online
These people are demanding healthcare, overtime pay, days off, water breaks, an end to arbitrary firings and abuse ‒ especially sexual abuse ‒ by field bosses. All of which has been confirmed by the economist Alejandro Diaz Bautista. Many farmworkers are from indigenous communities and speak limited Spanish. “The economic and social problems in San Quintin have to do with social inequality,” he said.
In an April 1st interview, the anthropologist Gisela Espinosa Damián said that thousands of laborers on March 16th and March 17th closed the trans-peninsular road. They were forcibly removed, and several people were arrested.
She also confirmed that in the workers’ camps, the women are working right alongside the male laborers, and facing the same injustices. In her own words:
“The participation of women in the workforce is very high in San Quintin. It is estimated that 62 percent of women over 12 years old are working for an income. In addition, there are many children, among them girls, who are also part of the workforce”
This battle had been going on for well over a month, even before March 23rd, when the Indigenous Front of Bilateral Negotiations announced San Quintin’s indigenous people’s decision to boycott the North American agricultural market.
In the same statement, the leaders said, ‘‘This is the reality avoided by all the officials and, if they cop out, we’re going to make a boycott against tomato, cucumber and strawberry exports to the US, with the support of the César Chávez union”.
In a publication of the L.A. Times we can read the words of the workers:
“We just want to show our presence, to show the government that we are raising our voices. That’s how we did it over there.”
Their words fell on deaf ears. A date was set for talks to take place in Baja between government representatives and the workers. But no one from the government showed up. In response, the workers organized the Global Action for San Quintin.
On May 10th was launched a boycott in the US against the companies that exploit these people, to demand the recognition of their human rights and their right to a fair wage. We must remember that these workers earn between $4 – $7 USD per day.
Yesterday government forces carried out repression against the laborers; there were two deaths and two detained as a result of the clashes between the police and the laborers.
Violence prevailed over dialogue, and on twitter we can read:
Stand with #SanQuintin and their demands. Join us in this fight! Human life and dignity do not have a price!