Celebrate Something Different this Valentine's Day

Embrace flower workers

A flower is a dictionary engraved in a haiku –a candle light melting clouds in our living space. A flower is a delta of fresh water thoughts longing for the waves
of salted sunbeams that sneak in at morning –the scented waves that help us sail through the beauty of everyday life. Flowers are bridges of emotions, but also messengers conveniently misused. Embrace flowers with your hands, your tears, your smile, your pollen-driven sneeze, and your skin pinched by thorns. Embrace them, hold them, pet them and massage them after the long walk from the shop to the vase; from
the nursery to customs. Embrace your flowers; embrace the people that grew them in Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Ecuador, Guatemala, the United States and Colombia, where I lived for more than a year.

Around eighty percent of the flowers grown in Colombia come to the United States. The industry provides jobs to more than 75,000 Colombians, mostly single mothers.
But what kinds of jobs?

Workers commonly face breathing problems because pesticides are sprayed in their presence on the fields without proper equipment. While those pesticides and fertilizers make most flowers spotless in our markets, the workers often end up with skin rashes. And they have to kneel constantly for planting and cutting, leading to back problems. The chemical exposure and the kneeling lead to a high miscarriage rate. During peaks seasons such as the pre-Valentine’s weeks, people work 14-18 hours a day. Many have no choice but to leave their children unattended, because the flower companies don’t provide child care. These women need the work, but does such job creation deserve to be called development?

Embrace your flowers and, as well, the people who grew them. Embrace the mothers who can’t be mothers even after Valentine’s Day because they need to keep working hard to send flowers for Mother’s Day.

Celebrate labor rights on February 14, celebrate Flower Workers’ Day! Send a Valentine’s card to your congress people and Dole, one of the US companies that has been involved in the Colombian flower industry, to demand worker rights and to stop the free trade agreement negotiations that will further these kinds of abuses without providing true development means.

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  1. Anonymous4:42 PM

    Can't we just celebrate a corporate created, consumer driven holiday without thinking about 'workers rights' and other so-called social issues?

  2. a comment dripping with sarcasm i hope...


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