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Turning Migrants into Slaves:Labor Exploitation and Caporalato Practices in the Italian Agricultural Sector

By Susi Meret and Irina Aguiari


Under the burning sun, from sunrise until late afternoon, the farmworkers are bending down to pick up the red ripe tomatoes from the plants. Their salary is based on the number of crates they can finish off within their working day. A filled-up crate weights about 375 kg and its pay is in average 5 euros per unit, often less than this. The tomatoes are transported to the processing factories, where they get packed in cans and sold on the supermarket shelves. They are then ready to end in our shopping bags. Yet, the conditions of harvesting, production and distribution are something we very seldom think about when doing our shopping. This shows the ambivalence inherent in a tomato tin can when transformed into a commodity. The red fruit is one of the core ingredients of the Mediterranean diet but also one of the main Italian export agro-products, whose economic value constitutes an important source of profit for the Italian agro-business. As a finished consumption item, the tomato tin can conceals the conditions of labour exploitation and oppression, the modern forms of coerced labour and the illicit practices that permeate and characterize this production field. The investigation of the caporalato system and of the way this profits the neoliberal economy, finds space in this volume as it well-illustrates how the convergence of spatial coercion, ethnic segregation, and the geographical organisation and dispersion of a dispossessed workforce (through the intersection of class, gender, and racial oppressions) are made indispensable to maintain and reproduce the profits within the contemporary agri-business sector

Topics: slavery, Caporalato, forced-labour, Italy
Publisher: 'Brill'
Year: 2020
DOI identifier: 10.1163/9789004443204_007
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Provided by: VBN
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