Disposable Workers: AARP looks at plight of those who have grown too old to pick…

A portrait of farm labor abuse is perhaps best understood as a mosaic. There is no one particular injustice — modern-day slavery or poverty wages, for example — that tells the whole story.

Rather, the farmworker experience is made up of a myriad of abuses — ranging in scale from daily, personal indignities to more overarching, systemic human rights violations — virtually unimaginable to those who do not have to make a living picking fruits and vegetables. That patchwork of injustices must be taken together, perceived as a whole, to adequately capture the harsh, humiliating, and sometimes brutal nature of farm labor exploitation.

Last week, a major lawsuit filed by the EEOC against one of Florida’s tomato giants cast light on a corner of that patchwork — sexual harassment — that is a rarely discussed, but all too prevalent, part of the daily reality faced by women who work in the fields.

scottrobertson-15Today, the AARP has helped direct attention to yet another tile in the mosaic, one usually hidden deep in the shadows: the plight of the “retired” farmworker, workers who have given their youth and their health to the fields, but with age and broken bodies can no longer work at the pace necessary to be hired for the harvest.

So, take a look at the video above (or visit the AARP website and check out their excellent series on hunger in America), and add the abandonment and degradation of older farmworkers to the bigger picture of exploitation behind the fruit and vegetables you buy in the bright, clean produce aisles of companies like Publix, Stop & Shop, Trader Joe’s, and WalMart.