Betreff: A Valentine for Flower Workers
Datum: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 13:30:37 EST

Labor Watch
Project of ActionLA Network

While you were enjoying St. Valentine's day yesterday,  please don't forget 
the farm workers from across the World who made it  happen...

Lee Siu Hin
ActionLA Labor Watch

A Valentine for  Flower Workers 
February 11, 2005
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service  (PANUPS)


Shortly before one of the  biggest flower-giving holidays of the year, flower 
workers in Ecuador have  petitioned their government for permission to 
establish an industry wide union.  Their request has been denied twice before by the 
Ecuadorian Ministry of Labor,  so the workers are also turning to consumers 
in the U.S., where half of  Ecuador’s flowers are sold, asking PANUPS readers 
to urge Ecuadorian officials  to certify the union. A link at the end of this 
article opens a sample email to  the Ministry of Labor in Quito. The flower 
workers have chosen to name their new  union for Valentine’s Day, Federación de 
Trabajadores Floricultores 14 de  Febrero, a testament to the significance of 
consumer purchases on this day. 

The perfect blooms that workers in Ecuador and other Central American  
countries grow, cut, and pack for export rely on intensive use of highly  hazardous 
pesticides. The International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) reports that  two 
thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian floriculture workers experience health  problems 
as a result of their work. Child labor is increasingly common in the  sector. 
According to the International Labor Organization, fully 20% of workers  in 
Ecuadorian floriculture are children and more than 70% of floriculture  workers 
in Colombia and Ecuador are women. The ILRF reports that illegal  pregnancy 
tests are often required at the time of hiring, and pregnant workers  are 
fired. Some plantations force workers to work overtime without overtime pay  before 
flower-giving holidays, and have fired workers for union organizing  
Plantations increasingly hire workers through sub-contractors, who provide  
less training, transportation, and benefits than workers hired directly.  
Subcontractors are also able shift workers from one plantation to another to  avoid 
union organizing efforts.

An industry wide flower worker union would provide workers with the  
collective strength to counter these abuses. Currently, workers at only four of  
Ecuador’s 300 flower companies have managed to organize unions. Those four  
existing unions have joined the petition for an industry wide federation,  
understanding that it will make them all stronger. 
Floriculture workers in  Colombia have a sector wide union, Untraflores, 
which brought international  attention to the pesticide poisoning of 200 workers 
at a large floriculture  facility near Bogotá in 2003 (see PANUPS, Workers 
Poisoned in Colombia, December  11, 2003). Late last year Untraflores gained 
certification for the first local  union of flower workers at a Dole plantation in 
Colombia. Since it was  certified, the new union has gained members and none 
have been fired, despite  management threats.
If certified, Federación de Trabajadores Floricultores 14  de Febrero would 
represent flower workers at any plantation in the country, and  enable single 
workers to join. In the absence of a sector wide organization, at  least 25 
workers at a facility need to petition to form a union. While  organizing 
themselves into a union, workers are the most vulnerable to firing or  other 
repercussions for union activity. 

In 2002 and again in 2003 floriculture workers petitioned the  Ecuadorian 
Minister of Labor for permission to form a union, as allowed under  the 
Ecuadorian Labor Code. The Minister denied both requests on technical  grounds. The 
ILRF reports that the Labor Ministry asked Expoflores, the  association of 
Ecuadorian flower producers and exporters, to weigh in on the  workers’ request. “
The exporters' association,” argues ILRF “should not have the  right to deny 
the workers the freedom to form this type of union.”

On February 9, 2005, workers applied for a third time, and have asked  
consumers around the world to send a Valentine to the Ecuadorian Minister of  Labor, 
urging him to allow the Federación de Trabajadores Floricultores 14 de  
Febrero to represent all of the nation’s floriculture workers. 

Visit our new Action Center to email your letter/Valentine to Quito  
For more information on labor conditions at Ecuadorian flower plantations,  
see the ILRF appeal, _ 
( .

Sources: International Labor Rights Fund, Fairness in Flowers Campaign,; PANUPS, Action Alert, Workers Poisoned in Colombia,
December 11, 2003, Floriculture: Pesticides, Worker Health & Codes of Conduct,
June 12, 2002, Behind the Flowers, the Workers’ Rights, Cactus, Bogotá,
Contact: ILRF, email,, (202)
347-4100, PANNA.

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