Valentine’s Day: Show The World Your Love of Justice

Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones magazine has a wake-up call for ’s Day celebrants:  Think You’re a Virtuous Valentine? Think Again.  She writes:

Cut flowers: That bouquet you may be planning to today was most likely not grown in the United States. The floriculture industry taps out at $32.8 billion, and about $14 billion of that comes from the sale of fresh flowers. Around 63 percent of those blooms are imports from Colombia, and another 23 percent from Ecuador.

The rights of this industry are truly depressing. In 2005, the International Rights Forum found that 55 percent of working in the Ecuadorian flower production trade (they constitute half the flower workforce) had been victim to sexual harassment in the workplace. Nineteen percent were forced to have sex with a supervisor or coworker. Compulsory pregnancy testing is also a serious industry issue. In Colombia, where make up about 65 percent of flower workers, a survey conducted by the nation’s flower industry union, Untraflores, found that about 80 percent of companies required to take a pregnancy test as part of their application process—presumably because they’d like to avoid providing paid maternity leave (required in Colombia). Another problem: In 2000, upwards of 48,000 were found working in Ecuador’s flower industry. Colombia wasn’t much better. There have since been a number of hefty efforts at reform, and while Colombia’s been improving, the US Department of still confirms extensive child use in Ecuador.

So, is the $17.6 billion that we will spend in the United States this year on ’s Day a boon for ?  Ms. Lentinova goes on to outline other issues related to impacts and other labor issues related to flowers, chocolate, and greeting cards.  I doubt that there is a to make Valentines day an anti- venture.  Unfortunately, this is a particularly example of how our is deeply intertwined with and treatment of labor. I would suggest that the first line of would be to consume no more than needed, to live simply.  The next line of , a close second, would be to educate oneself about how what we buy affects the rest of the world; then, to act responsibly based on that information.

Buy the way, happy ’s Day!

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