A VALENTINE'S DAY REPORT: Worker Justice and Basic Rights on Flower Plantations in Colombia and Ecuador

Publication Date: 

February 13, 2007



Colombia and Ecuador Dominate U.S. Flower Market

  • Colombia is the largest flower exporter to the U.S., followed by Ecuador. Approximately

    60% of all flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia. A third of Ecuador’s yearly production is exported to the U.S. for Valentine’s Day.

Poverty Wages, Long Hours, Unhealthy Conditions, Sexual Harassment Afflict Workers

  • Workers earn poverty-level wages, making less than half of what is needed to meet basic needs
  • 55% of women workers in Ecuador’s flower plantations have been the victims of some form of sexual harassment in the workplace
  • 66% of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer from work-related health problems
  • Pesticide abuse is rampant---flower workers experience higher-than-average rates of premature births, congenital malformations, and miscarriages
  • 70-80 hour work weeks are common in the high season.

Core Worker Rights Denied

  • Core worker rights are not respected. No new unions have been formed in Ecuador in years and no independent unions have been able to win a collective bargaining agreement in Colombia’s flower sector.
  • The most important worker organizing effort in the Colombian flower sector in the past five years is currently in the process of being crushed by the country’s largest flower owner and exporter, U.S.-based Dole.

Flowers Enter U.S. Duty-Free Under the Andean Trade Preference Act,

Benefits That Are Subject to Taking Steps on Worker Rights

  • Over 95% of Colombia and Ecuador’s flower exports enter the U.S. duty-free under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA). Flowers are one of the biggest recipients of ATPA benefits outside of petroleum. By law, ATPA requires qualifying countries to take steps on worker rights. The ATPA program was extended by Congress in December 2006 for six months and renewal will be on the Congressional agenda later this year.