Thursday, October 16, 2014

Discussion about flower workers in Colombia is Oct. 20

Flower workers and the U.S. free trade with Colombia will be discussed at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, in the Common Room. All are invited. The event is hosted by Modern Languages, the First Generation Initiative, and the Political Science Department.

Flowers are one of Colombia’s biggest exports  (with 76 percent imported to the U.S.)–and a priority sector in the Labor Action Plan created as part of the U.S. Free Trade Agreement

The workers, 65 percent female, have few protections. They are often forced to take pregnancy tests and birth control to avoid the common birth defects.

Workers are exposed to 127 different pesticides, three of which the World Health Organization has labeled as extremely toxic, and pesticides are sometimes sprayed directly on to workers.

During the busy season, workers can be forced to work 12-16 hour days, six days a week.

Cactus is a Colombian advocacy organization that encourages women flower workers to fight for their rights by offering legal advice and support programs.

Two representatives of Cactus will speak:

• Josefa Gomez is a former flower worker who spent almost a decade in the industry. She became involved in Cactus through its outreach programs, and she eventually joined the organization’s administrative team. With her experience as both a worker and organizer, she brings a unique perspective to the analysis of the current situation.

• Leonardo Luna Alzate is an expert on territorial issues and social movements. As the leader of the Cactus program directed toward building solidarity among women flower workers, their families and youth of the savannah, he offers an analysis of the benefits and challenges of creating a unified movement in the face of powerful economic interests.