Child labor and Coca Cola

Book pages 40-41

The prevalence of slave camps seems to be spreading in the 1980's. In North Carolina I now found bars where "slave catchers" come to kidnap drunks and winos for their camps.

These camps separate and destroy the black family just as slavery has always done. Wives and children are not permitted in the camps. Several men I talked to had not seen their families for up to eight months - and were nervous about what the situation would be like when they saw them again. In other places I saw migrant camps where entire families can live together, but there they are so dependent on each other's wages that they cannot afford to let the children leave the fields to go to school.

While the children in Louisiana perhaps had only one orange a year, in Florida I saw them virtually drowning in oranges.

Although it was formally abolished in 1911, it is nevertheless a fact that the present affluence of America was built not only on slavery and artificially low minimum wages, but also on child labor.

Even today one fourth of America's fruit is picked by children under sixteen years of age. It is worth remembering as we in Northern Europe are bombarded with cheap American fruit products, that these are not only products of minimum wages usually less than half ours in Scandinavia, but also the "grapes of wrath" of farm workers who in the off season have no social safety net like ours (unemployment benefits of 90% of normal salary for 2 1/2 years, free health care and education, rent subsidies, family allowances, nurseries, kindergartens, etc.). The cheap fruit we are enjoying is virtually the product of slavery.

By accident one day I discovered the name Coca-Cola on some of the trucks that drive orange juice from the migrant camps to the North, and found out that Coca-Cola, under the name of Minute Maid, owns quite a few of these slave camps.

Coca-Cola's slave camps are probably not among the worst in Florida, although many of the children suffer from universal deficiency diseases such as anemia which makes them exhausted and emaciated.

(When this book first came out in Denmark, I got a letter from Coca-Cola admitting how terrible conditions had been, but adding that now they had started big reforms in the camps.

However, when I came back the only visible change was a change of name on some chimneys.)



Copyright 2005 AMERICAN PICTURES; All rights reserved.


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