Migrants Voices

Tomato Workers

The Tomato Game reflects the reality about “illegal recruitment and labor exploitation of Filipino working class to other countries” in our society which can already be considered as a part of our culture. Here are many ways that one could enter into foreign soil, just like in the story The Tomato Game. Illegal recruitment and hoax are prevalent where the migrant’s papers can be manipulated for ease of entry to other countries.

Sophio Arimuhanan also called as Sopi in the story was playing an agent for recruiting and arranging necessary documents for migration in that country. This was depicted in the lines “Legal restrictions required that he pass the California Bar before admission to practice of law amongst his countrymen. Hence, the invention which he called Montalban Import-Export. In the context of our mores he was the right person for the job the old man wanted done”…”Sophio Arimuhanan, Attorney-at-law, importer-exporter (Parenthetically) of brides…” Sopi was a respectable man to everybody’s eyes. Because of this, he took advantage of his position to exploit migrant workers illegally. “Transpacifica University” was not a school rather; it was an agency that the transport migrant workers used to work abroad. “Trans” means to transport and “Pacifica” is the Pacific Ocean. They are transporting their recruits through a vehicle which leave the Islands to cross the Pacific Ocean .This justification was strongly approved by the lines “you don’t mean Transpacifica, do you?..”That’s your school… right? “How so?”…”eight hundred dollars a year is what the package cost. The old man paid that in advance. Its no school, as you know”. When a ripe tomato be place to other ripe rotten tomatoes, it is possible that this tomato will turn to a smelly useless thing. This game involving ripe tomatoes has human concern which involves the illegalities of the organization in exploiting migrant workers. This was strongly justified by the story line, “Also, this is my miserable lectureship at Transpacifica University which caters the needs of such industry”. A certain number of the offerings oriented toward the minorities and the university becomes entitled to certain funds.

“As in myth, the signs were all over: the wooden bridge; the fork of the road; the large track all around us which earlier have been a tomato field,” as we drove down the road toward the fork that led to the wooden bridge, the smell of ripe tomatoes kept trailing us. The huge machine had made a poor job of gathering the harvest”

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Antonio Martinez stood in the hot sun, exhausted from a cross-country journey, and waited. Just 21 years old, he had traveled from Mexico to the U.S. with the promise of a well-paid construction job in California. But now he stood in a field in central Florida, listening to one man pay another man $500 to own him.

“I realized I had been sold like an animal without any compassion," Antonio thought at the time, more than 10 years ago.

He was right. In modern times, in the United States, Antonio had been sold into slavery in Florida's tomato fields.

Tomato pickers in Florida are paid less than two pennies for each pound of tomatoes they pick. That's the same pound you buy at the grocery store for anywhere between $1.50 and $4.00, depending on location and season. It's a poverty-inducing wage that has diminished in real value since the 1970s, even as the retail price of tomatoes has increased.

Shrimp Workers

A CNN reporter observed that parts of the shrimp industry in Bangladesh involve child labour, bonded labour, forced labour and indirectly, human trafficking.

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An 18-year old woman interviewed by the Solidarity Center had been working in the shrimp industry in Bangladesh for ten years. She works 12-hour days and does not receive overtime pay. The excess of willing, poor workers mean it is hard to complain about conditions for fear of being sacked.

In September 2006, a police raid on Ranya Peaw shrimp processing factory in Thailand revealed, "hundreds of workers literally trapped… living in squalid conditions, forced to work long hours and subject to physical, emotional and sexual intimidation and abuse."

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Not all children working on shrimp boats in Cambodia know how to swim. This danger is further exacerbated by the fact that life jackets are thought to bring bad luck and therefore rarely kept onboard boats.

Cocoa Workers

Visit the "Cocoa" section of Products of Slavery website

Coffee Workers

Nine year-old Diego left his parents and went to work on a coffee farm, earning US $1.50 a day. He was recruited from there to join the FARC-EP militia.

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Some children are forced to pick coffee in Cote d'Ivoire. A BBC reporter found a group of 10 young children who were paid, at most, £1 between them for a days work.

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"I don't want to go picking coffee," says the barefooted teenager, as she wrestles a large metal container of coffee beans up a long ramp. "I want to go back to school." Martha is one of an estimated 4 million children in Kenya who spend their days laboring instead of learning. Working for just pennies an hour, they toil day in and day out, performing dangerous work that batters their tiny bodies and robs them of a promising future.

Physically, children in Kenya suffer greatly for their work in coffee: back aches from carrying heavy sacks of beans, cuts and scrapes from equipment, as well as snake bites.

Sugar Cane Workers

A 13 year old student in Belize wrote this poem: "I am just a child who should be cared for, not getting hurt in the cane fields, where I can learn no skill".

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During the sugarcane harvest, Haitians found living in the Dominican republic are rounded up without their consent, put in barracks and then taken to "bateyes" (sugarcane plantations), where they are forced to work under the watch of armed military soldiers.

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For three years Cecilio Rodriguez has worked as a sugarcane cutter. He is now just fourteen and is virtually independent, travelling across Mexico during the harvesting season to work as a day labourer on sugarcane plantations.

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Philippines states, "I started working on the sugarcane field when I was seven years old. Now, I am nine and I will still work in the field. I stopped going to school because my family could not afford to spend the money. My father is already dead. The money I earn is not enough to buy food. I am tired and hungry doing my work in the field."

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30% of the 11 million rural Ugandans involved in agriculture are children. Sugarcane is one of the main crops children as young as four are involved with.

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Labourers work on the sugarcane farms in pairs: one cuts sugarcane and the other gathers it in a bunch. A pair usually cuts about 2 tonne of sugarcane everyday which is then transported to sugar factories. Trucks carry sugarcane to the factories well into the night. Many a time children along with their parents work as labourers on these farms as well. Many children cook and clean at home while their parents toil on the farms. Ishara Gore, one of many such child labourers here, told us she studied in the third standard and would be going to the fourth when she returned to her village. Little did she know that her school exams would be over by the time she returned. Her family has migrated to Karat village in Sagli district for work. Her father, Yavik Gore told us, “It’s good if she studies, otherwise we will have to get her married in the next 5 years anyway. Then she will work with her husband like us.”

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Sovan and his older sister have been tricked into migrating into Thailand to work in a sugar cane field. Sovan then became a victim of labour exploitation in Thailand. Through Economic Empowerment to Vulnerable and Trafficked Persons (EEVP) Project, he has been turned to be a bike repairer upon his return to his village.

“I was told that I would make a lot of money, around 30,000 to 50,000 riel a day from working in Thailand. I thought I would send the money I earned back home. But in fact, I could earn nothing,” he said.

Sovan and his older sister went to Thailand in early 2009 in a group of seven people from his village, in a hope that he would have a good job, but in fact the reverse was true. He worked as a sugar-cane cutter in the field where he was forced to work long hours, from 6am to 5pm, and could earn only 30 baht a day (less than one US dollar).

Furthermore, he had to pay 300 baht per month to police so that he would be permitted to continue working in Thailand.

“On the day of departure from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, my group was very happy because we travelled by a very nice tourist van with air conditioner. Upon arrival at Siem Reap, we took a big truck to Thailand. By then, I realized we were tricked but it was too late,” he said.

Sovan said when they arrived in Thailand, they were dumped at a sugar-cane field at night time. They were shocked to hear that all of them had to work and pay debts of 100,000 Riel each.

“We didn't know what to do besides working to pay our debts,” he said.

Luckily one day his elder sister managed to escape and was rescued by a Cambodian family who returned to Cambodia. Sovan said, when realizing the group's squalid condition and suffering, the family facilitated the return for the group.

Sovan and other six persons returned home safely. All people in the group, including his sister, chose to work in Phnom Penh, while Sovan chose to return home and live with his uncle in the village. The village chief and his uncle, by then, requested for EEVP's support for Sovan. In June, 2010 EEVP decided to support him by providing vocational training on repairing bicycle and motorcycles.

Today, Sovan could earn between10,000 and 15,000 Riel per day from repairing bicycles and motorcycles. Sovan said he is committed to running this business successfully.

“I keep all the earnings with my uncle and I will take this job as my life career,” he said.

Sovan said in his final words that he would no longer go to work in Thailand, and would share his bitter experience with other villagers

Banana Workers

"That is the life of my sons, working in the banana [fields] at such a young age," said Benita Menéndez, 36, who has had three sons working at Mr. Noboa's banana plantation in Ecuador, only one of them an adult. "I did not want them to work when they were little, but this is the reality." Mr. Noboa is one of the richest men in Ecuador.

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56% of child labourers in Nicaragua are aged between five and 14. The majority of these work in rural areas in agriculture, such as on banana plantations.

Cotton Workers

One student forced to pick cotton in China said, “According to what they said, if we could not finish our duty, we would have to pay money. If we picked more than the required amount, we could earn money. The eight of us students fell behind and had to pay money. We had no money to pay”.

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An estimated 25 percent of school children in one region of southern Kazakhstan were forced to pick cotton in the autumn of 2009.

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Isomiddin, a 19 year old migrant worker, was sold, along with other workers, for US $35 dollars a head. They ended up living in slave-like conditions on a cotton farm, with meagre food supplies, inadequate housing and no pay.

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"I belong to the farm so I work on the fields. I don't earn any money , and I didn't know I was supposed to be paid...Sometimes the thermometer would go over 40 degrees". A ninth grade pupil picking cotton in south Tajikistan.