Toxic Free NC Tip Du Jour: Raleigh for a Harvest of Dignity

Toxic Free NC Tip Du Jour: Raleigh for a Harvest of Dignity

November, 23, 2010, by Billie Karel

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Danielle Michaels, Raleigh, NC

“It is ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.”

César Chávez said it decades ago in California, and it’s true today in North Carolina. According to recent data, nearly half of North Carolina’s farm worker families don’t have enough food to put on the table.

It’s no wonder. Most farm workers are exempt from minimum wage laws, and all are exempt from overtime pay, even though they have one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. Typical pay for harvesting sweet potatoes, a Thanksgiving staple and a major NC cash crop, is just 40 cents per bucket. At that rate, a worker has to pick and haul two tons of sweet potatoes, bucket by bucket, to earn $50.

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, people around the Triangle have been making gorgeous photo and video postcards for a new campaign called Harvest of Dignity, aimed at improving working and living conditions for farm workers and poultry workers in North Carolina. Check some of them out below, and on Toxic Free NC’s website, and if you feel so inspired, make your own! It’s a good way to remember North Carolina’s farm workers - our neighbors - and support an exciting new campaign at the same time.  More information on the Harvest of Dignity campaign.

In truth, our own health is tied up with the farm workers. Consider that they work at the source of a stream of pesticide pollution that winds up contaminating our food and our drinking water. When their right to report pesticide misuse on farms without fearing for their jobs is thoroughly protected by our state, we’ll all have a little less toxic chemical pollution to worry about!

Raleigh chef Angela Salamanca of Dos Taquitos Centro.

Long-time Raleigh activist Cy King.

Carley Ruff.

Happy Thanksgiving from Toxic Free NC!

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  • Ana
    11/29 10:28 AM

    Wow, so you’re saying conditions are fine the way they are, AND you’re arguing that farm workers, by virtue of the job they’re doing, should not have kids?  Your comments are repulsive!

  • kate
    11/29 12:59 PM

    “An 18th century agrarian economy benefits no one.”

    Yes, that is what the Harvest of Dignity Campaign is trying to address.  And although it would be nice for everyone in North Carolina to work in high tech industries, white collar jobs, and office settings, unfortunately, we still need to eat.  Someone is going to have to grow, harvest, process, and pack the food we eat.  And those people should be compensated fairly, enough to provide for themselves and their families, and should be treated fairly and work in safe conditions.  I don’t think those are radical things to ask for.

  • Same Old Raleigh
    12/02 11:49 AM

    Good luck to you folks that think these guys should get $10/hr to pick potatoes.  Most of them are already getting free healthcare and not paying taxes.  Let me know how much you like paying 2-3 times the amount you currently pay for produce.

  • Same old head in the sand
    12/07 06:55 PM

    It’s not that they are “not paying taxes”, but that their taxes never make it to the treasuries because a crew leader is stealing it out of the FICA, FED and STATE lines of their paychecks.  Maybe employers should receive the same kinds of sanctions for hiring illegal workers as the people who accept the jobs.  But then again, you and I can make political donations and vote, so we have greater standing in this society, so what’s the sense in leveling the system out for the benefit of farmworkers?

  • Billie Karel
    12/08 11:15 AM

    A bit out of date, but here is a very relevant article from the NY Times which I hope will correct some misconceptions about whether undocumented immigrants pay taxes:

    In a nutshell, most undocumented workers have payroll taxes deducted from their paychecks - Social Security and Medicare - but they are not eligible to collect those benefits when they reach 65. So they are in effect subsidizing our system to the tune of $7billion a year (as of that ‘05 article). They are also not eligible for food stamps, medicaid, or welfare.

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