In the world of journalism, it’s well understood that timing is a great asset. Time the story right and it will often receive more attention. A poorly timed story will languish in the background of a world of information overload.
With Thanksgiving, the end all holiday for food, upon us the Southern Poverty Law Center released a special report long in the making about women in the food industry. “Injustice on Our Plates: Women in the U.S. Food Industry” takes a look at women toiling in the fields picking grapes and fruit to women across the country working in fields and factories producing food for our consumption. Living on the margins of society and impoverished by most accounts, these women often are victimized in a multitude of ways. From unsolicited sexual advances to unfair labor practices and pay, women in the food industry often suffer out of fear of being outed as an undocumented worker. It’s worth noting that many of the women who I photographed as part of the report are reluctant to complain. Humble and grateful for what they have, it’s not always easy getting the women to open up about abuses.
I spent a bit of time photographing various women in central California who either worked or are currently working in the fields. From the Grapes of Wrath to many other accounts, much has been written about the plight of migrant field workers. But when you see them twisting vines, snapping twigs and yanking oranges, it gives you a new perspective. This is truly tough work. The women, hands offering a contrast of nail polish and hardened dirt, work long hours in tough conditions. And as the SPLC report clearly defines, the wages are low and the workers are destined for a life of poverty.
No matter where you stand on the immigration debate or your political leanings, the next time you pick up some grapes at the store or enjoy a glass of vino at Thanksgiving, just give some silent appreciation for those who picked them.
Give the report a look here. It can be downloaded as a PDF: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/injustice-on-our-plates
One last thing! SPLC is one of the nation’s most diligent non profits working on behalf of those with no voice in society. They have fought the long hard battle for decades dating back to the Civil Rights movement. Please consider donating, even a small amount is helpful. Go here if you can swing a small gift: https://secure.splcenter.org/donations/donate/overview