Friday, November 21, 2014

"Food Chains" examines abuse of migrant fruit pickers and other similar workers, in our produce industry

Food Chains” is another documentary, this one by Sanjay Rawal, playing the social justice and personal (as well as corporate) karma cards. 
The film documents the plight of migrant workers, mostly in south Florida (especially around Immokalee (in the swamp, east of Fort Myers) and also in the Napa Valley, CA (site of the film “The Dark Place” coming in December).  It also reminds me of a Morgan Spurlock “Inside Man” episode (TV blog., July 28. 2013), where even Morgan had a hard time holding down a job picking oranges (nearer to Orlando). Here, the fruit is tomatoes. 
Men aren’t paid until the dew burns off and they actually deliver the vegetables.  Typically, they can make only about $45 a day and live in trailer parks because they can’t afford more.  Many are undocumented; they don’t complain because of fear of deportation; it would be interesting (as a post script to the film) to examine the effect of President Obama’s executive order announced last night.
The film takes the viewpoint that big corporations, especially the supermarket companies, control the market and distance themselves from the labor conditions in the fields.  The most important corporations discussed in the film are Walmart and Publix. Companies are gradually pressured to join the Fair Food Program (link).  Less than .1% of the Publix budget, and only cost the average consumer about 50 cents a year.  I’m skeptical that this math really works.

During the time span of the film, the workers stage a hunger strike in south Florida.
The documentary notes a 1960 black and white documentary “Harvest of Shame”. 
The film has a brief exploration of worker abuse overseas by tech and garment companies, and shows the results of a fire in Bangladesh.

I recall that back in the fall of 1972, the Peoples Party of New Jersey (associated with Dr. Benjamin Spock at the time) organized a “lettuce boycott” that didn’t accomplish a lot.

The main site is here (Tribeca Film).

I saw this film at the West End Cinema today in Washington.  Representatives of Fair Food were in the theater.  The even show was sold out, and the late afternoon was half full.   

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