The Transition From a Male-Dominated Agricultural Domain to a Female-Intensive Waged Labor force
Transition From Cane to Blackberries
The Growers: “Everyone thought we were crazy!" • Raúl Sánchez: 1987, Los Reyes "I tore out my sugar cane 19 years ago and planted one hectare of blackberries. Everyone thought we were crazy!" • Leobardo Guillén: 1994, Los Angeles "When we began, we didn't know how to produce, not even the experts knew. There was no one to buy the fruit. Only the popsickle shops wanted it. At times we went around selling it in the streets!"
Economic Differentiation • Sugar Cane (previously): • 10,000 hectares • 1500 cane growers • Blackberries & Raspberries (2006) • 2500-3000 hectares, 400 in Los Angeles ejido • ¾ of land is rented • 800-1000 growers • 6.5 million boxes of berries per year • Annual profits of $46,742,720
Concentration of Land, Wealth, & Resources • Companies demand growers with resources to make technological investments, and who demonstrate productive success; credit depends on productive efficiency • Hursts manager: “The zone is like an industry—this is very important at the international level. I am not going to risk it. They have to be successful first. This is a business. We are not like Santa Claus!” • Wealthy, large-scale growers in Los Reyes are renting up land of small-scale growers in Los Angeles
Growth & Productive Efficiency • Hortifrut: Exported 1,700,000 boxes in 2006 • Sales of its exporting company, Global Berry Farms, soared from $72 million in 2001 to $214 million in 2005 • The state of Michoacán, exported 1,756,592 boxes of blackberries in 2002 and 4,674,272 boxes in 2005
Technological Change • The costs of cane production were $15,000-$20,000 pesos per hectare; the costs of berry production can be up to $160,000 pesos • Small-scale growers often lack funds to install irrigation systems, tunnels, packing sheds, dining sheds, sheds to store chemical containers, portable bathrooms, and drinking water and bathing facilities in the field
Companies’ Rejection of Fruit • Hurts Example: • Leobardo: “They said the fruit arrived with mold. God knows! How would we know? When the packing company receives our fruit, then it is the company’s responsibility. That is what we said, but they denied that. What could we do?” • Alicia: “Hursts was good at first, but they began to reject the fruit. They were saturated with growers. I had to work under the hot sun, with the thorns of the blackberries. That made me very angry. They returned a mountain of boxes—60, or 70, or 80, sometimes all of it. It made me mad. It was a pretext.”
Increased Use of Agrochemicals • Hursts: 6 rejections of fruit in 2004 • Sunny Ridge: chloramphenicol residues in 2006 (causes fatal aplastic anemia) • Grower mentioned chemicals: • Permethrin (Permitrina)—banned in Canada • Azinphos methyl (Gusatión)—highly toxic • Benomyl (Binolate)—endocrine-disrupting effects • Captan—carcinogenic fungicide • Carbaryl (Sevín)—endocrine-disrupting effects • Carbaryl—endocrine-disrupting effects, causes mutations • Methyl parathion—organophosphate, “extremely hazardous” • Paraquat (Gramaxone, Metílico)--#1 cause of chemical poisonings
Leobardo —1st berry grower Malathion Gusathion
Prices • Pricers paid to growers fluctuate wildly throughout the growing season, from $10.91 to $2.73 per box • Each box contains 12-6oz. containers of berries, picked and packed by women Note the electronic number code is already on the container
“It is a way that the business owners use to screw you” • Berry companies impose a vertically integrated hierarchy of power relations on growers. Companies contract growers to reduce risks of production, while maintaining control through prices, credit, and acceptance or rejection of fruit. Growers, in turn, transfer their lack of control over prices to field workers. It is the berry picker at the bottom of this chain of command who must put in excessive hours without additional pay, risk her health, and accept inferior wages, which remain a pittance in comparison with the humongous profits earned by the agroexport industry.
Discordant Feminist Theories: • 75-80% of berry pickers are women • Women’s emancipation via waged labor? (Acevedo) • Women exploited as waged laborers? (Acosta-Belén and Bose) • “The End to Dichotomy”? (Cubbit and Greenslade, Dore)
Changes in Gender Roles • Women owned sugar cane, but men worked in the fields • 1982 Women acquired ejido land for cane production • Used proceeds to form a cooperative tortilla factory • Rental of former cane lands for blackberry production (Barbara Berries)
Sun Belle (Chilean) • Sun Belle hires 650 temporary workers, but retains 120 workers throughout the year • Women earn $1.09 per box for picking and $10.91 per day for working in the packing shed
Mexican Agronomist: “The Chileans are of a distinct class. They like order. Their relationships are somewhat closed. They try not to become involved with the campesinos. The Chileans have a very overpowering attitude. Sometimes they rob the people—there are people who don’t know how to read or write and they reduce the number of boxes they deliver. If the women realize how they are being exploited, it is not part of their culture to complain. All the Chileans care about is their profit.”
Leonor (abandoned): “We work a lot of hours and they pay us very little. If they pay us the wrong amount they tell us we have to wait another two weeks. Three months ago they paid us and they gave me $700 pesos [she was owed $1180, since she had been working until 9:00 PM every night; 700 workers had been underpaid].
Leonor, continued: “Do you know what? They humiliate us. I told the secretary, ‘This is not my pay.’ She said, ‘How can it not be your pay if this is what you earned?’ We grabbed our lunch and we were crying.” • Sun Belle was paying Leonor $110 pesos per day; at the same time, men earned $120 per day, or $150 when they fumigated the plants with chemicals. But during the picking season when she is in charge of accounting for each picker's boxes, Leonor takes her bookwork home, spending two hours every evening, without pay. Berry picking leads to the superexploitation of women workers who may work from 7:00 AM until 8:00 or 9:00 PM.
Double Exploitation of Indigenous Women • The indigenous people get together in a big group and they make demands. It is the most difficult thing to work with them. They don't speak Spanish and they don't understand. There is a lot of ignorance. They have a very low culture. If there is the slightest irregularity, they leave“—Sun Belle Manager
The Berry Workers • Work for companies, Los Reyes growers, and Los Angeles growers • Ages 13-67, different stages of the life cycle • Diverse marital statuses (married, single, abandoned, widowed) • Different economic backgrounds • Education (few completed 6th grade)
Raquel, age 67—Field Boss of Wealthy, Los Reyes Grower • “He is field boss, but he does nothing. From 7:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night we [seven women] picked 150 boxes, and he is in the packing shed and does nothing.” • “He spent the day drunk. When he became angry with us, he yelled, “Who did this? Ass holes! Once his wife was working and he hit her.” • “The real truth is, if we place a complaint to the owner, they are going to chase us away, and what are we going to do? One supposes that the owner will fire the field boss and us too. Yes, there is an opportunity to improve things, but they can fire us”
“She looks older than she is” --Lizbeth’s Mother
“O-o-o-h! Zapatos!” • Age, Marital Status, & Contribution to Household Income • Most young, single women free to spend personal income • Laura: "The first week I was dizzy with the money I earned! I couldn't believe it! My sisters never told me what they were earning.“ • Single mother: “O-o-o-h! Zapatos! Clothes! Aye! How great! I no longer feel dependent on asking my dad for money.”
Abandoned Women • “My salary is spent so that all the family can eat. Nothing is left for clothes, no clothing, nothing, nothing”--Leonor
Widows: “What Else Was I Going to Do?”--Cheli • Guillermina, abandoned by her husband, crossed the border with the service of a coyote in 2004. Unable to adjust, she returned to Los Angeles and works picking berries. • The day she crossed, the coyote was abducted and brutally murdered. He was the husband of another berry worker, now widowed with five young children.
Married Women • “We work out of necessity. It is not for pleasure that we work and scratch ourselves up with all those thorns. I barely earn enough to eat” --Raquel
Married Women • Trinidad: “Don’t think that I earn enough to buy food and clothes. One week I buy one thing and the next week the other. I eat very little. I think I have to save money to pay the gas, and then the electric bill arrives. And we don’t have [health] insurance.” • Teresa: “It has improved some, but not much, hey? The prices have increased and it is not enough. The crisis is always here. Agriculture does not pay a good salary. Put $120 for the pay, and a kilo of meat costs $70. Yes, we have the ability to buy what is necessary. We are a little better for paying our loans. We hardly buy, we buy only what is necessary.” • Alicia: “We use our earnings to buy cell phones, bicycles, Intendo, and Barbies.” • Magdalena: “My main objective is to buy a “moto.”
Irma & Rafael Global Berry Farms AGRICOLA LOS REYES GARABAY MORALES IRMA
“…until we were holding in our stomachs. We didn’t even have $5 [pesos] because of the bathroom” --Yolanda
Ten Boxes = $10.90 Dollars Per Day • = $1.09 Per Box • = $.09 Cents Per Container
Why Women? • Sun Belle Manager: Men have migrated to better-paid jobs in the U.S. • Women become substitute labor to supplant the lack of male waged laborers • When men do work, they always receive higher wages than women • What ideology justifies differential wages for men and women?
Segmenting the Berry Labor Market • “Men’s Work”
Rosa Rosita Proceso Rosita Rosa Proceso
“I feel dizzy when they demand, ‘Pick more boxes!’ You get dizzy from rushing so” --Magdalena