Flower Workers and Economic Justice

USLEAP campaigns to support flower workers who orgnize to improve their wages and working conditions in Latin America, with a current focus on Colombia.

More about the flower industry:

  • Flower workers are primarily women who work long hours, especially before holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, are paid poverty-level wages, and face hazardous working conditions.Flower Worker
  • Over 60% of flowers bought in the U.S. come from Colombia.
  • About 100,000 flower workers are employed in Colombia, most of whom are women; almost a third are single mothers.
  • In July 2008, Dole, which was the largest grower and exporter in Colombia, signed contracts with two flower worker unions in Colombia.  It took the workers nearly four years of struggle to win these first contracts and hundreds of workers lost their jobs during the fight.  In early 2009, Dole sold off its Latin American flower operations; the Colombian operations were taken over by FlorAmerica/Sunburst.  In late 2010, FlorAmerica closed one union plantation and sharply cut back operations at the two other unionized plantations. The primary owners of the operation, the Nannetti brothers, claim financial hardship while thousands of workers are left without pay and punished for demanding their rights. Read more about the struggle here.

USLEAP has, with support:

  • campaigned against Dole and FlorAmerica-Sunburst, creating grassroots pressure with protests around the country, letter-writing campaigns, and e-mail blasts;
  • obtained media stories (print, radio, and TV);
  • met with Dole executives;
  • organized flower worker tours in the U.S., especially in Miami, then the home of Dole Fresh Flowers;
  • co-produced with the International Labor Rights Forum a Valentine’s Day report;
  • organized a U.S. congressional letter on flower worker rights in Colombia;
  • lobbied the Colombian government;
  • educated U.S. policy makers about injustice and violations in the flower industry;
  • engaged and pressured the Colombian flower growers association;
  • strategized and collaborated with European unions and NGOs to support flower workers in Colombia, and more.

Read USLEAP report: "Gendered Injustice: The Struggle of Women Flower Workers in Colombia", a great educational resource about workers' and womens’ rights in the Colombian flower industry. Or order a free copy from the office.

Check out our statement, "Ethical Consumption: USLEAP Views on Fair Trade, Other Certification Programs, and Consumer Power."