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50,000 Mexican Farmworkers Have Gone on Strike in Baja California, Demand Overtime Pay, Breaks, Healthcare and Water

First Posted: Apr 01, 2015 07:11 AM EDT
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Photo : John Moore/Getty Images

Fifty thousand Mexican farmworkers have gone on strike in Baja California, and they're aggressively protesting low wages, poor working conditions and rights abuses.

Protest leaders are set to meet with growers; meanwhile, millions in crops have rotted as the two groups fight to find middle ground.

According to reports, workers have been throwing rocks and burning tires to raise attention to the apparent mistreatment of the employees who farm millions of dollars in strawberries, tomatoes and other produce in the agricultural sovereign state of Baja.

During the height of disputes, protesters blocked the main north-south highway and Transpeninsular Highway, and partner strikes have sprouted across the state. The workers have demanded overtime pay, breaks, healthcare, water and time off. Also, the demonstrators requested field bosses end arbitrary firings, sexual abuse and other abuses.

According to the Associated Press, farmworkers make as little as $8 to $10 for a full 10-hour day of labor, and they are asking to be paid $20 a day for long days in hot-houses and in the sun. According to workers who spoke with AP, workers must use their small wages to support themselves and their families, which is difficult.

Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega released a public statement that urged the farmers to return to work because the crop loss will lead to the destruction of jobs, and it will likely "affect everyone who depends on this part of the economy."

Since the protests began, more than 200 demonstrators have been arrested for vandalism, riots and rock-throwing. Businesses have boarded up their windows, and more than 1,000 police officers have been piped throughout the state to promote control. Just one month ago, Mexico's agricultural sector created an alliance of industry trade groups that was meant to improve work conditions for farmworkers, but the group has yet to respond to the turmoil.

The Baja California area lacks social facilities, essential culture, hospitals, jobs and water services. Housing, sanitation and power issues also plague the community. Additionally, many members of indigenous communities speak limited Spanish; many are illiterate and lack health care.

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