Valentines Day and Mother’s Day are the biggest days of the year for flower sales around the globe, but do you know how those flowers come to you? It’s not a pretty sight. Colombia is one of the world’s largest flower producers, and the industry is plagued by problems, usually concerning very low pay, long hours, and constant exposure to a number of toxic chemicals.In 2002 I spent some time on the outskirts of Bogotá talking to a group of women who “worked” at these flower farms. I use the term “work” very loosely since they had tried to ask for a living wage and in retaliation have been locked out from work. The women had organized and set up tent outside the various farms to express their opinions about the situation. They had been doing this, while unemployed, for over a year.
A recent article in the UK’s Guardian commented about these gross work situations, and mentioned something that I hadn’t heard before. Colombia has created logo to designate “good” farms to work on, with the label of “Florverde”, but the article in the Guardian says that even on these farms there are common violations to workers right.
If you want to learn more about the matter, I suggest Marta Rodriguez’ film “Amor, mujeres y flores / Love, Women and Flowers”, available from Women Make Movies (also available from a number of academic libraries in the USA). This film documents a specific case where workers managed to take over a flower farm and ran it successfully for a while, until the previous owners brought in the police and destroyed the place, and let the farm run into the ground. The ruins of this particular farm still stand as an example of what “happens when workers try to demand just working conditions”.
Here are a few links to organic and/or fair trade flower producers around the world. (I’m not endorsing any of these, use your own common sense when/if you want to patronize them.)