Low paid workers and farmers losing everything, sounds like complete madness. In the book Stuffed and Starved by author Raj Patel, as well as the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser show similarities between how workers are paid low also working in bad conditions, and to carry along how farmers have become nothing more then people in debt and losing their land, and lastly how the NAFTA agreement between Canada, the U. S. , and Mexico has played a huge role on how free trade has taken place and what is has done to the food market.
Workers now in the food industry have become nothing more than businesses puppets, sadly because they need a job so they will take what they can even if it’s for a lower cost. Companies will take workers that will work for less, mostly being migrant workers. In the book Fast Food Nation Schlosser says that, at Greeley slaughterhouse “Monfort began to employ a different sort of worker there: recent immigrants, many of them illegals” (160). The people in charge are taking what they can get for a lower cost.
There became so much poverty in Mexico that many civilians were trying to get out and move to a place where they would have a better life for themselves and their family. This drove an increase in immigrants trying to cross the border, in reaction to this the U. S. government had to buckle down and make border hopping or trying to pass the border stricter. On another note behind doors working conditions are horrible and worker injuries have slyly become unnoticeable to society. Many places now are trying to keep injuries under wraps so they are not sued and are not given the trouble dealing with bad publicity or going under.
My main example for this topic will be about working conditions in the slaughter house. For starters slaughterhouses are not really known for being the most sanitary at all times and are filled with many obstacles for workers to try and avoid. What I mean about not being the cleanest is that during working hours there are large amount of blood everywhere from the animals be slaughtered there, and second all the animal guts and body parts everywhere sometimes dealing with the bodily parts with their own bare hands.
Then at the end of the night cleaners come in and hose everything down with a chlorine water chemical to get rid of all the blood and the mess. A problem with that is that many of them can either get sick having to breathe in all of those chemicals or get burned by the hot liquid that is being sprayed. Beside all these issues working in the factories itself are dangerous, workers could get caught in the machines, and watch out for butcher knives or any other utensils similar to those that other workers are handling.
Often times when workers do get injured they often don’t get time off and instead have to come back to work the next day and are given an easier job to do to keep the system moving along. Time after time workers are under pressure not to report injuries. A quote told to a worker from a supervisor given in the book Fast Food Nation says, ““If one hand is no good”, the supervisor told him, “use the other”” (177). Here we are shown that some supervisors will take no mercy and will only do what is better for the company and not for the workers.
The farming atmosphere has completely changed because big time companies are taking over farmers land or taking charge in ways where the farmers have no freedom. Many farmers have given into riding along with businesses based on the simple fact they say they will “try” and take care of the farmers and give them money by contract. Generally the money that is given to farmers is not nearly enough to the amount they should be given, and most of all what they need. Farmers are often become more in debt because companies ask for newer machinery, systems, and houses for the animals.
The most known problem is with the chicken farms, and how farmers have no more say anymore on how anything will be handled. All they really do is check on the chickens and raise them until they are at the point to where they will be taken to the factories, killed, and turned into chicken nuggets. “A 1996 USDA investigation of concentration in the beef industry found that many ranchers were afraid to testify against large meatpacking companies, fearing retaliation” (143). Free trade has changed the way agriculture and farming is in the U. S. even more how it has affected Mexico because of more regulations, tariffs, and restrictions.
That is where NAFTA comes into play. NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement, and began on January 1, 1994. It is the mother of all free trade agreements and is a union between Mexico, the U. S. , and Canada. Raj Patel says that, “NAFTA was the first to mesh two rich countries with a significantly poorer one” (56). So in other words, basically Mexico got screwed over, putting Mexico up against the more productive and well subsidized agricultural people in the world. The agreement was supposed to help create wealth, jumping across borders, freedom, and lastly enterprise.
Instead, this trade did the exact opposite making the economic and agricultural life in Mexico priceless and devastating. To go behind the scenes of Mexico a little bit, small farms there make up 85% of farmers living in Mexico. In other words if you get rid of all these small farms what more do you really have left? Did you know corn is on of the key staple foods for Mexico? Well, according to Patel, “it is where corn began” (57). When NAFTA became into effect the Mexican Peso crashed. Their response was none the less, to keep growing more corn and the amount that farmers produced increased.
Many farmers became independent when the price of corn fell trying to produce and take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately though, the people that did not thrive seemed to be left behind. Much so since the price of corn had fallen, it put a huge toll on the production of tortilla’s, changing the whole way of how the food market once was. NAFTA was supposed to bring Mexico cheaper goods for consumers and efficiency to the market but completely failed to do so; furthermore, NAFTA should have been given the boot if it wasn’t helping anyone. Where then is NAFTA in all this?
Under a free-market, libertarian model, a country would not sign treaties, even free trade ones. People are supposed to be “self-governing”, meaning that most of the decisions over their daily lives are pushed to the lowest levels of government. A treaty adds another level of government above even the national government, stretching the principle of self government even farther from the local communities where it belongs. The people become unable to protect themselves as the national government signs away their rights and control over their own lives to the treaty and therefore, to another country.
Instead of NAFTA, the US should open up its trade to all nations, without sanctions, without protective tariffs, and without distinguishing between nations. These tools have proved poor bargaining tools and are often detrimental to the US’ own economy. Rather, by opening up our own economy, our own goods and services become cheaper to produce because the cost to produce them are not propped up by tariffs. Similarly, our goods become more naturally appealing to other nations because of their low price, not because of their low subsidized price.
In conclusion, America uses its substantial economic and political power to bully Mexico in the name of the free market, as well as other countries. Some of these problems, such as people going out of business, business methods becoming unprofitable, and people committing suicide because of incredible debt, will probably still occur, even in a true free market. But Raj Patel and I seem to agree on the reforms needed, removing US subsidies and protections for agriculture, especially corn, and removing NAFTA. I would argue for reducing immigration restrictions as well.