Wal-Mart on track to improve Mexican farm workers lives

By Dania Vargas Austryjak

Initiatives from Wal-Mart and Mexican government.

A new alliance between Wal-Mart and the Mexican government will encourage and support better living conditions for the over 1 million workers who work on Mexican export produce farms. This would include initiatives such as improved housing, schools and healthcare, as well as enforcing and reinforcing labor laws.

Wal-Mart, as the largest retailer in the world, imports thousands of pounds of produce grown in Mexico, fruits and vegetables that are harvested by Mexican hands. Because of this, the company is focusing on doing business with production facilities that meet Wal-Mart’s standards and treat workers with respect and dignity.

The International Produce Alliance to Promote a Socially Responsible Industry was announced by Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, Enrique Martinez y Martinez, with the main purpose of regulating wage laws and improving the life of men and women who work in the fields by providing better housing, a stable water supply, creating schools and offering healthcare services.

farmers wal mart

Wal-Mart stated being “optimistic and encouraged that the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture … seems to be taking a leading role in the [alliance] by working closely with producers in Mexico," as quoted in the LA Times.

The Mexican government is also preparing to open stores in labor camps to offer discounted goods in order to discontinue the prevalence of privately owned shops, known as tiendas de raya, which raise prices and make workers incur in debt only to get home with no money left.

Wal-Mart plans to be actively involved and will periodically send senior leaders to meet growers and groups to partner up and figure out ways to improve conditions of work camps. It is hoped that this level of participation will serve to make a significant change in people’s lives given that, as the largest buyer of Mexican produce, it may set an example to encourage competitors to implement similar actions.

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