Among the many systemic flows that the coronavirus emergency has brought to light there is also the unsustainability of capitalist industrial model of agricultural production. The supplies that sustain the nutritional needs of millions of people are organised across global chains of production that are unequal as they are unsustainable.
One of the issues of the industrial agricultural model is the length of the supply chains, which makes them vulnerable to potential bottlenecks. Yet another problem for many countries is their dependency on far away producers who might decide to reduce or suspend imports during a crisis. Not to mention the overall environmental impact of agro-business (see Coronavirus and the planetary environmental crisis.
In this session, we consider specifically the pirate care initiatives that are confronting one specific aspect of the food supply chain: the fact that limitations on movement and the closure of borders to face the epidemic are causing a shortage of cheap labor, often of foreign origin, on which industrial agriculture is based. The considitions in which this kind of agricultural labour is undertaken are often brutal, facing extremely low wages and long hours; informal arrengements with the employers that are mediated by organised crime cartels; mixed with the constant fears associated with the status of being an irregular migrant subject to racism and social discrimination. Many seasonal workers are also refusing to migrate for the season as they fear for their health and of not being able to get back to their countries of origin.
Below some resources to support our collective learning and mobilizing around this issue.
Initiatives / demands
(concrete pirate care and bottom-up practices, both emerging and pre-exisitng)
In Italy, the ngo Terra! and the trade union Flai CGIL call for an amnesty against the Coronavirus, to ensure access to care and clean work for those who live in the ghettos of our country. The proposal was launched in an open letter addressed to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and Ministers Teresa Bellanova (Agriculture), Nunzia Catalfo (Work), Lamorgese (Interior), Roberto Speranza (Health) and Provenzano (South). SOURCE: Regolarizzare i braccianti stranieri per proteggerli dal Coronavirus e dal caporalato, 20 Mrch 2020.
(other news that impact the situation)
In the UK, where 98% of harvest workers are migrants, the industry has issued a campain called ‘Feed the Nation’, which calls for a ‘land army of employees’ to support British farmers and growers. Yet, despite the campaign targeting “students, job seekers and anyone who has been laid off work due to the impact of Covid-19, such as those working in hospitality and catering”, only 10,000 people signed up to pick fruit and vegetables, leaving around 90,000 positions still vacant.
From the Feed the Nation ad, Concordia Volunteers:
Working on farms can be tough – It can be hard work, long hours, early starts, in sometimes difficult weather conditions. We want to be open and honest with you. You will be at least paid minimum wage and many farms pay National Living Wage or more, depending on how much fruit and/or vegetables you harvest, and the role you do on the farm.
From Austria: Hauptsache billig: Was Corona über die Ausbeutung von Erntearbeiter innen verrät, an article by the Sezonieri campaign about the current situation, placing it in the context of prevailing practice in agricultural seasonal work.
(critical thinking / analysis pieces - also not corona-specific, but about the issue in focus)
(links to other repositories, syllabi, practical adivses, how-to, etc.)
Sezonieri.at are a coalition of PRO-GE trade union with agricultural workers´ activists. They cooperate with non-governmental organizations which stand up for the rights of harvest workers. They represent the interests of agricultural workers. They want to prevent the exploitation of farm workers, improve their working conditions, and have the experience to enforce rights – if necessary – through the courts and with public authorities / administrative bodies.