It is easy to forget the reason why most of our produce is so conveniently cheap. We do not see the hard work behind the perfectly picked blueberries, mushrooms and tomatoes we eat. We are blind to the fact that immigrant farm workers work in harsh conditions and only for low wages.
Kennett Square, Pa., more commonly known as “the mushroom capital of the world,” produces 56 percent of the mushrooms consumed in the United States. The mushroom industry is an integral part of the economy of Kennett Square and our region and the workers of the industry are what have allowed the mushroom production to turn Kennett Square into a flourishing community.
In 1993, the workers of Kaolin Mushroom Company, composed largely of immigrant workers, set a historic precedent by becoming one of the first groups of immigrant agricultural employees in the region to unionize.
This group includes about 300 of Kennett Square’s 10,000 agricultural mushroom pickers.
Under the current contract workers are entitled to a two percent wage increase. They hope to have this adjusted to better match the country’s rate of inflation.
In addition the workers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. The company has been hesitant to let workers take this time. It usually denies a request for leave or grants only a partial leave. As of Oct. 23, 2009 the company has not met these demands.
We, as consumers of this area, overlook the proper recognition due to the people who make produce inexpensive.
These people are fighting for what is fair, fighting for what is due to them for their hard and needed work.
The Kaolin workers need your help to assist them to achieve their demands and help them gain the fair treatment in the work place that all humans deserve.