“Employment is a two-way street and should be mutually beneficial for both workers and employers,”
Workers in Italy’s tomato industry are organising against exploitation and poor working conditions in one of the country’s most important sectors. Migrant workers find themselves at the sharp end of industry abuses, which local government has continually failed to tackle and anti-slavery legislation proves wildly insufficient to prevent.
On 25th August, some 400 migrant farm workers totally blockaded two of the largest tomato processing factories in Europe, located in the industrial hub in the outskirts of the city of Foggia, in Puglia, southern Italy. They brought processing and logistics operations to a halt for more than six hours, The strike was the culmination of a year’s cycle of struggles, and was directed against the processing plants of Futuragri S.C.A. and Princes Industrie Alimentari S.r.L. The latter is a subsidiary of the multinational food giant Princes Ltd., owned since 1989 by the Mitsubishi Group and based in Liverpool, UK. Many of the 300 lorry drivers affected by the blockade also joined the farm workers in protesting against their employers, who force them to wait unpaid outside the factory for up to 24 hours.
How do migrant workers successfully enact labour and social rights? ‘Respekt’, a local network established by Polish live-in care workers in Basel, Switzerland, challenges widespread assumptions held by unions.
They appeared suddenly, had voices and faces: Polish women care workers tending elderly persons in Switzerland in what is a 24-hour job. At the 2014 May Day march in Basel, Switzerland, they took centre stage at the ‘expense’ of the established labour unions. Wearing self-made scarfs in the red and white colours of the Polish flag, they carried a large banner with the slogan “No more exploitation – We demand rights and respect!” Other banners read “A six hour salary for a 24-hour job?! Not on our watch!” “A six hour salary for a 24-hour job?! Not on our watch!”And as the demonstrators reached the local parliament, Bozena Domanska, a Polish care worker, climbed on stage and started to speak about her work:
Payroll cards can cost low-wage workers an hour’s pay per week.
Labor Day weekend should be a time for Americans to celebrate the economic achievements of workers with barbecues and beach trips. But with U.S. corporations routinely taking advantage of their low-wage employees, we might as well rename it Labor Exploitation Day.
The truth is, our workers have suffered mightily in the last few years. The $7.25 minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009. And thanks to the latest corporate cheap trick, even that paltry sum has been further eroded.
Big-name chains like McDonald’s, Walmart, and Darden Restaurants (of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steak House fame) are now issuing ATM-style “payroll cards” instead of regular paychecks.