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Estados Unidos: Violación de derechos en los campos de Florida

Esta breve panorámica muestra las violaciones de los derechos humanos de los granjeros de Immokalee y hace un llamado a la rendición de cuentas por parte de las corporaciones.


Human rights are discussed and debated on the international stage by most of the world’s nations, and represent the fundamental standards that these governments – including the United States – have set for themselves. Yet, governments stand by as corporations sub-contract for goods and services provided extremely cheaply through the systemic and widespread use of human rights violations. Contrary to international law, human rights violations are the lever by which these corporations increase there profit margins.

Within their respective spheres of activity and influence, transnational corporations and other business enterprises have the obligation to promote, secure the fulfillment of, respect, ensure respect of and protect human rights recognized in international as well as national law, including the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.

--UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, par.1

Human Rights Violations Against Immokalee Farmworkers

All kinds of workers are victims of this system of profiteering. One of the most egregious examples is the ongoing human rights violations in the tomato fields of Florida. Taco Bell regularly sub-contracts to buy produce from these fields (1). Despite human rights norms that require governments and business enterprises to ensure the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work including:

  • Fair wages [that provide] a decent living for themselves and their families: Immokalee farmworkers have an annual income of less than ,500 and must pick and haul 2 TONS of tomatoes to make in a day – the same piece rate paid since 1978 (2)
  • Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay: Immokalee farmworkers work 12-14 hour days without overtime pay, pensions, paid vacation or sick leave
  • Safe and healthy working conditions: Immokalee farmworkers face poor living conditions, heavy physical labor, and exposure to pesticides all which have negative long-term health effects

Additionally, human rights standards guarantee:
* The right of everyone to form trade unions: Immokalee farmworkers are prevented from organizing and bargaining collectively with employers, often through threats of retaliation
* The right of everyone … to medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness (3): Immokalee farmworkers do not receive any health benefits despite the physically demanding nature of their work and consequent threat to health

Human rights standards protect a range of economic and social rights, including the right to work, health, housing, food, social security, and education. Together, these rights ensure:

The right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions

--Art. 11 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The working conditions faced by workers picking tomatoes for Taco Bell in Immokalee Florida fail to meet these basic standards and – with wages frozen since 1978 – there is no indication of “continuous improvement of living conditions” that would change the human rights crises of migrant workers in the State.

Economic Security and Freedom: Indivisible Rights

True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd President of the United States

Economic and social rights, which together, ensure an adequate standard of living and provide economic security are essential for the protection of freedom. Violations of economic and social rights lay the foundation for most extreme violations of the right to freedom, including slavery.

No on shall be held in slavery ... [or] be required to perform forced or compulsory labour

--Art. 8 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Yet, through their organizing and outreach the Coalition of Immokalee workers has discovered several slavery rings. As a result, six cases of involuntary servitude of farm workers have been successfully prosecuted by the federal government in Florida.

Subcontractors striving to deliver produce at increasingly lower costs result in multiple human rights violations which enable slavery or involuntary servitude even today in the United States of America.

Transnational corporations and other business enterprises shall have the responsibility to use due diligence in ensuring that … they do not directly or indirectly benefit from abuses….and use their influence in order to help promote and ensure respect for human rights

--UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Right, par1 and Commentary, par 1b

Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, must face its human rights obligations and take responsibility for the extreme conditions in Immokalee, Florida. The corporation must:

  • Engage in good faith dialogue with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers regarding human rights abuses by sub-contractors;
  • In light of billion in sales in 2001 seriously consider CIW’s request to pay one penny more per pound of tomatoes to ensure fair wages and address the existing enabling conditions for slavery;
  • Monitor human rights compliance amongst its sub-contractors;
  • Develop a human rights policy and ensure its enforcement by all parties with which the company contracts.

References

(1) Many workers also pick oranges in similar conditions for Pepsico’s Tropicana, Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid, and Cargill
(2) According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual income of farmworkers today is ,500.
(3) Arts. 7, 8, 11 & 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)