Fighting for worker justice in the global economy.
- Colombia is the largest flower exporter to the U.S., followed by Ecuador. Approximately 60% of all flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia. A third of Ecuador’s yearly production is exported to the U.S. for Valentine’s Day.
Poverty Wages, Long Hours, Unhealthy Conditions, Sexual Harassment Afflict Workers
- Workers earn poverty-level wages, making less than half of what is needed to meet basic needs
- 55% of women workers in Ecuador’s flower plantations have been the victims of some form of sexual harassment in the workplace
- 66% of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer from work-related health problems
- Pesticide abuse is rampant---flower workers experience higher-than-average rates of premature births, congenital malformations, and miscarriages
- 70-80 hour work weeks are common in the high season.
Core Worker Rights Denied
- Core worker rights are not respected. No new unions have been formed in Ecuador in years and no independent unions have been able to win a collective bargaining agreement in Colombia’s flower sector.
- The most important worker organizing effort in the Colombian flower sector in the past five years is currently in the process of being crushed by the country’s largest flower owner and exporter, U.S.-based Dole.
Flowers Enter U.S. Duty-Free Under the Andean Trade Preference Act, Benefits That Are Subject to Taking Steps on Worker Rights
- Over 95% of Colombia and Ecuador’s flower exports enter the U.S. duty-free under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA). Flowers are one of the biggest recipients of ATPA benefits outside of petroleum. By law, ATPA requires qualifying countries to take steps on worker rights. The ATPA program was extended by Congress in December 2006 for six months and renewal will be on the Congressional agenda later this year.
- Colombia is the largest flower exporter to the U.S., followed by Ecuador.
- Approximately 60% of all flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia. U.S. consumers spend over $18 billion annually on flowers, which are increasingly sold in large grocery store retail chains rather than neighborhood florists.
Over 80% of the flowers produced in Colombia are exported to the U.S. Three-quarters of these flowers are grown near Bogotá, while most of the remainder are produced outside of Medellin. In 2005, the Colombian flower industry provided 111,000 jobs directly, and an additional 94,000 indirectly.
According to Asocoflores, the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters, over half of the workers directly employed by flower exporting companies are between 30 and 49 years old, and 60% are female.
Both national and multinational companies have invested in the flower industry. U.S.-based Dole Fresh Flowers, a subsidiary of the Dole Food Company, is the largest flower plantation owner and exporter in Colombia, and the biggest exporter of flowers from Latin America.
Over 70% of Ecuador’s flower exports go to the U.S. A third of Ecuador’s yearly production is exported to the U.S. for Valentine’s Day. Flowers are Ecuador’s 5th largest export. The flower industry employs nearly 40,000 workers directly and another 15,000 jobs are created indirectly.
Check out our collaborative labor rights blog, Labor is Not a Commodity!