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The Workers Who Grow Our Food In Mexico Often Live In Deplorable Conditions
Although the produce from Mexico undergoes some of the strictest safety regulations in order to ensure they can be sold Stateside, a recent investigative report has found that means of production behind that food still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to workers rights and living conditions.
With Mexico the largest source of our imported produce (69% of our imported vegetables in 2012), the demand for food from the gringos to the north necessitates a need for a large and cheap labor force. In the first of a four-part, in-depth investigation, the LA Times has found that a the majority of these day laborers live in squalor in what can essentially be described as labor camps, and often are peasants bussed in from the indigenous regions of the country.
In these camps the workers are often illegally withheld their pay, kept enclosed within barbed-wire fences, and are often left in debt because of the price gouging from the on-site company stores. In many cases, the reporters found that workers and their families had no running water and would bathe in irrigation canals. "The real truth is that we're work animals for the fields," migrant worker Pasqual Garcia told the LA Times. These workers are paid anywhere between $8 and $12 a day, and work six days a week.
The majority of these farms are high-yield, super-efficient operations that produce for suppliers of American companies such as Wal Mart, Subway, and even the socially-conscious Whole Foods. In northern Mexico, these operations are so massive that the rows of hothouses and greenhouses can be seen from space. Although every one of these companies claims to ensure their food is ethically produced, a combination of the lack of public pressure, the Mexican government's inability to enforce laws, and sheer volume has allowed these appalling practices to continue.
"We have tried in recent years to improve the lives of our workers. There's still room for improvement. There's always room for improvement," the COO of one of the producers told the LA Times. Bland, empty statements like that seemed to be the norm when the Times reporters reached out to those in charge of the producers.
The series, titled Product Of Mexico has three more forthcoming installments in the series. The next part, is focused on the impossible process of trying to enforce change in the labor practices at these camps.