Mexican farm workers protest over 'exploitation'

GMT 22:49 2015 Friday ,24 April

Arab Today, arab today Mexican farm workers protest over 'exploitation'

Farm workers protest along a road in San Quintin
San Quintin - AFP

Thousands of farm workers protested again in northwestern Mexico on Friday to demand better pay for backbreaking labor picking fruits and vegetables that are exported to the United States.

The demonstration was held before talks between representatives of the workers and federal officials trying to resolve a tense labor dispute that has lasted more than a month and included violent protests.

Local police said more than 7,000 people marched in San Quintin, an agricultural town in Baja California state. The protesters held signs reading "enough with exploitation."

The workers went on strike on March 17 and some of their protests led to clashes with police and almost 300 arrests.

"The pittance they pay us is not enough," said Rosa, a 55-year-old indigenous woman and single mother of three who is originally from the southern state of Oaxaca.

Rosa, who declined to give her last name, earns $8.5 per day to pick tomatoes during nine-hour work days.

Some 80,000 farm workers toil in a region on the Pacific coast where they pick strawberries and other red fruits in vast fields and tomatoes and cucumbers grown in greenhouses.

Most of the workers are from the impoverished southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.

Previous protests prompted the largest farm in the region to increase wages by 15 percent, but the workers considered it a paltry offer.

The workers' representatives entered a meeting with federal officials to ask for their daily salary to rise from 120 to 200 pesos ($7.7 to $13).

"I think we will get the 200 pesos in this meeting. But if there's no answer, our next step is an international economic boycott" to convince consumers to avoid the region's produce, Fidel Sanchez, one of the movement's leaders, told AFP.

The government says there are more than two million day laborers in Mexico, a country of 118 million people, and that they live in near slave-like conditions, without contracts or social benefits while earning $4 to $7 per day.


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