A Labor Day for the Farmer Slave

This Labor Day, millions of Americans rushed the malls, parks and beaches to enjoy one last dog day of summer before the leaves die. We ate fruit salads and chocolate ice cream and forgot about the world a bit.

In our forgetfulness, and in our well-deserved rest, we died a little on the inside. And here’s how:

Historically, Labor Day represents a celebration of workers’ unions. Whatever your political views about unions, the holiday’s history is a fact. Today it might mean the start of football season, the last watermelons of the year, and darker church shoes, but back in the day it meant a special time to honor workers and their families.

1908 Labor Day Parade – New York City

We have done a disservice to the day while enjoying our picnics. Because while we feasted, workers around the world labored on fields against their wills. Fearing violence, deportation or threats against family members, they are the agricultural slaves who filled our Labor Day plates.

Agricultural slavery is one of the oldest forms of bondage. Today it can be found worldwide, from bananas to chocolate to beef to Florida oranges. It refers to any farm worker forced or manipulated to labor without pay, and usually involves other abuses as well.

It is a sad state of affairs that the demand for slave-made food has not diminished very much in recent years. Information abounds about the conditions on most farms. Local food has become culturally acceptable again. But here we are still eating chocolate ice cream from child slaves and banana cream pies from malformed and forcefully evicted laborers. All while celebrating a day off from our demanding jobs – jobs that pay.

We judge other forms of slavery – we are disgusted by forced prostitution and celebrate the end of the African slave trade. We believe deeply that we are better, that we have grown up some. But if asked what went into making our fruit salads, we don’t know, because we could not even begin to list all of the farms that produced it, let alone who they hire and what, if anything, they pay.

We judge others, but we are the ones walking around in dead men’s bones. We consume slavery, chew it, delight in it, and trust in it for our bodies’ nutrition. We work out at the gym dependent on it, and walk to work the next day glad for the energy it has provided.

Many of us, including myself, know that there have been reports from certain industries that are bad, that suggest foul play. I may not know what those reports say, but that is because I hear that they exist and then choose not to look. After all, it might mean I have to pay ten more cents a banana, or get to know my tomato farmer, or look at the scars of a child slave.

God forgive us for being so dead inside that we can eat suffering without a thought and revel in the few bucks we’ve saved. Happy Labor Day to the farmer slaves. May you be allowed to labor in freedom one day, on my dime.


Get involved!

Was your Labor Day meal made by slaves? Do you have any idea? Restore the feast by getting to know your local farmers and learning more about industry practices.

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Comments
One Response to “A Labor Day for the Farmer Slave”
  1. Darrell says:

    I didn’t do much on Labor Day. In fact, I didn’t labor at all, just caught up on past due reading and enjoyed the beautiful Memphis sunshine. Today I feel compelled to add a few thoughts to your post.

    The problem of migrant workers being forced to work against their will may be a fact for all I know but there is something behind it all that will inevitably spell doom for the American economy. When, I’m not sure’ its hard enough to be right about what. Remember that just because something is inevitable doesn’t mean its immeninent.
    When we use the word globalization we group a whole polyglot of things under that name and it sounds kind of modern like if you are against globalization you are from the middle ages. What the term really means is the transferring of American middle class labor to foreign countries and foreign workers. That, of course, also means that the American GNP (Gross National Product) is transferred with it. When our GNP is in foreighn countries we import more than we export and that causes a trade imbalance and thereby causes borrowing from foreign nations to support it thus adding year after year to the on budget national debt.

    What does all this have to do with migrant workers? Well economists tell us that consumption of mostly foreign goods is now 70 percent of the American economy. That’s why the economy will not recover, because no recovery is possible. All the “stimulus” simply adds to the debt and to the GNP of other nations. This has all been done to maximize profit from every deal. To build the shareholder profits of our companies we maximize value by destroying middle class jobs that provided good lives and careers for millions. Nothing and I mean nothing matters except maximim profit.
    But what does all this have to do with migrant workers? Well, in the 30’s during the depression young people had left the family farms to work in factories in the cities. When it all collapsed they returned to their parents on the farms. Today there are no farm parents to return to. Farms are all gigantic agri-businesses run by corporate boards of directors and worked by migrants. So our farms are gone, manufacturing is gone, what’s the stimulus supposed to stimulate? There is no regard for the nation, for working men and women, or even for humanity itself left in this globalized world.

    To top it off, all politicians of any power are totally owned by K Street lobyists directly responsible to giant defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies, agri-corporations and the like. They in turn are directly responsible to the central bankers of the world who have a monoply on printing money and they are responsible to no one.

    It’s a difficult struggle to raise awareness of a few exploited and enslaved people when there is a war against the entire human race being waged all over the world. Right now the human race is losing because our best are too ignorant or prosperous to get in the fight.

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