When a Rose is Not a Rose
Beatriz Fuentes of Bogota, Colombia, works on a flower plantation where she has witnessed firsthand the negative effects of globalization and abuse of female workers. In this photo, Ms. Fuentes visits a Wal-Mart Supercenter Store in Chehalis, Wash., in February 2007. Photo courtesy of Nora Ferm, International Labor Rights Fund.
by BARBARA WHEELER*
For Beatriz Fuentes of Bogota, Colombia, working on a flower plantation owned by Dole Corp. is not a bed of roses. Ms. Fuentes and her fellow workers face:
- Occupational health hazards, including working amidst pesticides and chemicals;
- Decreased wages because of multinational corporations entering the industry;
- Verbal abuse and harassment from supervisors: and
- Anti-union sentiment.
The working conditions faced by Ms. Fuentes and other plantation workers are prevented through regulation in the United States but not in Colombia.
Ms. Fuentes is one of 90,000 workers – 65 percent of whom are women – who make their living growing and harvesting flowers that are shipped out of Colombia to supermarkets in countries including the United States. Workers at the plantation have seen shipping labels addressed to Walmart and Albertson’s stores, Ms. Fuentes said.
The International Labor Relations Fund (ILRF) brought Ms. Fuentes to the United States to tell her story. She visited with staff of the Women’s Division and other units of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries in New York City. The International Labor Relations Fund is a human-rights organization that focuses on labor rights.
Ms. Fuentes said she and her fellow workers are encouraged by organizations around the world that are working in solidarity with workers on labor-justice issues.
Ms. Fuentes’s experience is an example of the impact economic globalization is having on some workers. To learn more about the positive and negative impact of economic globalization, engage the 2006-2008 mission study on globalization. Study resources, available through the Mission Resource Center, 1-800-305-9857, include:
- Globalization and Its Impact on People’s Lives, #3724 / $7.50.
- The Big “G” Youth Mission Study, #3725 / $6.
For information, check out the International Labor Relations Fund website: www.laborrights.org.