The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday September 27th

Film screening highlights farmworker injustice

Jazmin Posas (left) and Ramon Zepeda of Student Action with Farmworkers joined UNC student organization FLO (fair, local, organic) to host a film screening and Thanksgiving potluck on Monday evening.
Buy Photos Jazmin Posas (left) and Ramon Zepeda of Student Action with Farmworkers joined UNC student organization FLO (fair, local, organic) to host a film screening and Thanksgiving potluck on Monday evening.

“Harvest of Dignity” is a 30-minute documentary created by Student Action with Farmworkers in 2011 that illustrates the difficulties faced by modern-day farmworkers — showing everything from their poor living conditions, with too few beds and poor plumbing, to their demanding workloads, gathering nearly two tons of sweet potatoes to earn $50.

Images from the documentary were compared to images from “Harvest of Shame,” a documentary created in 1960 to expose the plight of America’s farmworkers.

“The conditions remain the same,” said Ramon Zepeda, program director for Student Action with Farmworkers.

Zepeda has seen the dangers of farm work up close.

“I took many pictures of many fingers and cuts,” he said, referring to the dangers of poultry work.

Sophomore Caitlin Seyfried found the issue of child labor particularly problematic.

Many farmworkers, primarily immigrants, have entire families working in the fields, regardless of age, because of the low pay for farm work. Children work mostly during the summer, but also balance schoolwork with farm work.

“It’s something we focus on in other countries, but it’s happening here,” she said.

Senior Rachel Atkinson said the Department of Labor is not necessarily to blame.

“They can’t raise their prices because consumers in America won’t pay the real price for food,” she said.

Zepeda agreed that the Department of Labor is not the main problem.

“I’ve seen a lot of campaigns to push our government agencies to do more,” he said. “I’ve seen how easily companies can go from place-to-place without being punished for their wrongdoings.”

Junior Catherine Crowe, an intern with Student Action with Farmworkers, said part of the problem is a lack of knowledge about working conditions for farmworkers, which someone in attendance noted was evident in the low attendance.

Jazmin Posas, program coordinator for Student Action with Farmworkers, said experience with farmwork is the best way to become informed.

“Until I saw it firsthand, I didn’t realize what the situation was,” Posas said. “I think the living and working conditions are the most impactful.”

The biggest problem, Zepeda said, is the disposability of farmworkers.

“The law doesn’t change because the pool of workers have been replaced,” he said. “Workers have been replaced and, therefore, the conditions don’t have to be changed.”

The question of what can be done has several answers, but sophomore Alexandria Huber has an idea of where to start.

“People will say America used to and now we’re so equal, and we used to have slavery and that’s what it used to be,” she said. “Things aren’t as changed as we seem to think they are.”

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