Mother’s Day, May 10, is one of the biggest days in the year for flower sales. Yet thousands of women who pick most of the flowers, many of them mothers themselves, will be working in egregious conditions for poverty wages.
More than 60 percent of the flowers sold in the United States come from Colombia. Two-thirds of the nearly 100,000 flower workers in Colombia are women, many working mothers. They often are required to work 12-to-15-hour days with few breaks, especially in the weeks before holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. As a result, many have been injured on the job and suffer health problems related to overexposure to pesticides and humiliating and degrading treatment by management. All for poverty-level wages.
This Mother’s Day, U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP), an advocacy group promoting labor rights in Latin America, is bringing the story of the Colombian flower workers to American consumers. Along with the International Labor Rights Forum and Jobs with Justice in South Florida, USLEAP is sponsoring “A Mother’s Day Story” tour. Amanda Camacho, a Colombian flower worker and union leader, is touring various cities in this country to raise awareness about labor rights violations in the cut-flower industry, especially during high-selling seasons like Mother’s Day.
In July 2008, Dole, which was the largest grower and exporter in Colombia, signed contracts with two flower worker unions in Colombia. It took the workers nearly four years of struggle to win these first contracts and hundreds of workers lost their jobs during the fight. Since then, Dole has sold their Colombian flower business altogether.
In conjunction with the tour, USLEAP also has designed two Mother’s Day cards, each featuring a photo of a Colombian flower worker and her child. In exchange for a $35 donation ($20 for students or persons with low income) to USLEAP’s Flower Worker Economic Justice Campaign, your mother will receive a card in the mail with a personalized message from you inside.
On the back of the card, she can read about women who work in the flower industry in Colombia and their efforts to form effective unions on their plantations.
You can place your Mother’s Day card order here. Sending this card will say to your mother that you care about her as well as the rights of all mothers.