Mexican day laborers have been in a constant battle for better working conditions, access to health care, and fair wages.
Back in March, workers began to protest the harsh conditions experienced while working in the coastal region of San Quintin in Baja, California. They demanded better wages, social benefits, and an end to sexual harassment by patrons against their wives. San Quintin labor leader Fidel Sanchez tells VICE that although all of these rights are in the Mexican constitution, they have not been upheld.
According to VICE, the 90,000 indigenous people—including children—that have settled in the San Quintin valley in the last few decades are the cheap labor companies look to hire. Companies like Driscoll’s claim they pay their workers between $5 to $9 per hour, but labor leaders explain that day workers will typically only receive $7 for an entire days worth of work.
By June 4, the government claimed it would “work with the companies to set a new wage that is as close to the workers’ demand of 200 pesos ($13 dollars) per day.” Because many companies refused to pay their workers higher wages, the Mexican government was forced to pay the difference.
Many workers migrate in search of jobs, making the occupation of “day laborer” a family affair; an estimate of over 100,000 children work in the fields instead of attending school. Laborers harvest crops in 100-degree weather with zero protection against the pesticides and crops that they come into contact with.
The low wages and harsh working conditions leave families without basic necessities including running water and a bed. The lack of income has left many workers in debt, struggling to pay for food sold by their patrons.
The leader of the San Quintin labor movement explains to VICE that change will come as Americans realize the impact that their produce has on the people that harvest it. If consumers refuse to buy products that are inhumanely produced, only then will companies realize the impact of their unfair wages and agree to reform.