Michelle Petrotta, Program Officer, International Labor Rights Forum
As you know, the Sunday before last we celebrated Mother’s Day: a day we gave flowers, chocolates, or greeting cards to our own mothers to honor their work to raise us, provide for us, and help us live a better life. At ILRF, on Mother’s Day, we reflected upon the struggles of working mothers around the world, and their efforts to organize for respect and dignity in the workplace.
Last week, ILRF launched an intimate look into the lives of working mothers. As the free trade model replicates worldwide, multinational corporations exploit increasingly weak and “flexible” labor laws. As a result, women workers are systematically denied their rights to regular pay and working hours; equal pay for equal work; permanent contracts; safe and non-hazardous work environments; non-discrimination; and freedom of association.
These stories are just a few voices among the millions of women that plant, harvest, pack, and prepare our food, and engage in paid domestic work, in order to support their families. ILRF would like to graciously thank our partners around the world that have spent time listening to these women tell their stories.
Xiomara, Honduran shrimp farmworker: not paid the minimum wage “I have worked in the shrimp packing plant for seventeen years since I was fifteen years old… I do not earn the legal minimum wage. I am hired on temporary contracts by the company.”
Karen, Honduran melon farmworker: fired for being pregnant “The last time I was pregnant, they fired me from my job. I don’t feel we work in a safe and healthy environment because if we have to go to the bathroom, we do it outside in the fields, we drink water from contaminated wells, and the boss does not give us protective equipment in the field.”
Digna, Honduran shrimp farmworker: unstable, precarious work with high production quotas “I do not earn a wage per hour, but I earn for the number of pounds of shrimp I process. Each pound is worth 10 cents of a dollar. So, if I am only able to separate two pounds of shrimp, then I only earn 20 cents. If there is no production, they will not pay me anything.”
María, Peruvian asparagus farmworker: long workdays and unsafe working conditions “Working twelve hour days on the asparagus farm is a lot for any person, but it is worse when you are pregnant. There is always the risk to be fired, maybe because they think you are ‘less productive.’”
Sarmijem, Indonesian domestic worker: long workdays, low salary, no benefits “I receive $2 a day for working more than 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I don’t think my salary is fair.”
At ILRF, we want all mothers to have dignified and stable employment where they are guaranteed a living wage and the right to organize. Follow these links to learn more about ILRF’s Rights for Working Women Campaign, women workers in agro-export industries, and precarious work.