Not such a rosy picture
Via my friend MatttBastard, I learned of the AFL-CIO's campaign to show some true love to mothers on Mothers' Day.
The American labour umbrella group is urging sons and daughters to think about where those floral bouquets they may be sending might have come from before they order them:
More than 60 percent of the flowers sold in the United States come from Colombia. Two-thirds of the nearly 100,000 flower workers in Colombia are women, many working mothers. They often are required to work 12-to-15-hour days with few breaks, especially in the weeks before holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. As a result, many have been injured on the job and suffer health problems related to overexposure to pesticides and humiliating and degrading treatment by management. All for poverty-level wages.
You can help by going here:
In low season, workers at the plantation regularly work about 50 hours per week. The high season workweek is often 70-80 hours. Men report waking up around 5 a.m.; for women it is often as early as 3 a.m. in order to finish housework, feed their children and prepare them for school. The bus arrives between 5 and 5:30.
Once at the plantation, they put on their work clothes, and must be in position when the bell rings at 6:15 a.m. The post-harvest section, in which flowers are sorted by quality and color, employs only women, while the cultivation and packing sections mostly employ men.
The number of hours worked daily depends on the worker’s department, but a typical worker will stay at work during the low season from 6:15 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. They are allowed 30 minutes for lunch and at least one 15-minute break. During the high season, workers report working 14 or 15-hour days. They begin work at 6:15 a.m. and often stay until 10 or 11 p.m. At the end of the day the workers return home in buses, then start all over again the next day.
Which is better than nothing but simply wrong. It's complete exploitation.
So, even better, seek out florists that deal with fair trade growers.
Last year, my Star colleague Lisa Wright reported on this Toronto outfit which operates ethically.
Bob and Doug Hatcher aren't your typical petal pushers.
Planted in a North York flower shop that's remarkably been in the family for nearly a century, they care enough to dig up the floral facts on exactly where your pretty Valentine's Day roses and bouquets came from and the conditions in which they were grown.
On top of that they're one of the few known retailers in the Toronto area – and one of only about a dozen in Ontario – that offer certified, Earth-friendly flowers on request at the charming Hatcher Florist shop on Yonge St. near Finch Ave.
"More and more people are searching out these eco-products," said Doug Hatcher, noting it's a small but blossoming segment of the business that's been in his family since 1909.
"Randomly ask 10 florists, `Do you specifically look for Ontario flowers?' and if they didn't say `I don't care' I'd be surprised," Patel joked.
Eco Flora is another Canadian online floral retailer based in Toronto that specializes in organic and so-called fair-trade flowers.
"This is our small way of helping the planet. We're trying to change the world one flower at a time," brother Bob added.
Stores such as Grassroots or Ten Thousand Villages also offer dozens of fair-trade gift ideas, while companies such as Botanical PaperWorks of Winnipeg make Valentine cards that can be planted in the garden come spring. With the cards themselves acting as the compost, the wild flower seeds implanted in the paper will soon begin to sprout – giving perhaps the ultimate in locally grown flowers.
"There's six different flowers in there," says Petra McGowan of Botanical PaperWorks, whose home garden is full of her company's wild flowers.
"I don't have time to garden, so I just plant paper."
The thing is, you can't just stop buying flowers from Colombia because these women will starve.
What you have to do is tell florists you will be happy to deal with them if they buy fair trade flowers from ethical growers/importers.
Don't hurt one mother to make yours feel loved.