Labor Day & Vineyard Work


Today is Labor day. According to Wikipedia, “Labor Day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.” I got a survey in the mail today asking me if I am celebrating the holiday working to organize labor, spending time with friends and family or if I am at work. Lucky for me, I am spending the day hanging out with my family, about to have a BBQ and thinking of what to pair with it, not toiling in the fields. Like many people, I consider Labor day the official end to the summer. My paternal grandfather who spent part of his life in a factory and then driving a taxi, likely had other thoughts about the meaning of Labor Day, despite the ability to retire and move to Florida later in life. He belong to a union as did my grandmother.

I am thinking of the laborers who work in vineyards. Many do not have the ability to take the day off today because we are in the middle of harvest but also because many are day laborers and some do not have legal papers.

Wine blogging is often only about luxury and pleasure but I am also interested in social justice. Today on Labor day, I am thinking about workers and their rights. A lot of the people who end up harvesting grapes in Italy and other countries are not tourists but are migrant workers or immigrants. Often they are also poorly paid and now, with the immigration issues in Europe and the refugee crisis around the world, I wonder what the future holds for these people. Producers will always tell you that they use the same teams of people to harvest their grapes year in and year out but mathematically that is not really possible.

I participated in an interesting forum on vineyard management and the issues surrounding migrant workers during the Batonnage virtual conference. It was quite eye-opening.

I don’t have any numbers about immigrants and migrant workers picking grapes in Italy or other countries and found scant reliable data but I remember the stories of the Africans picking tomatoes in Calabria years ago and the horrendous conditions in which they lived. I also remember this story about Paola Clemente, a woman who died in 2015 at 49 sorting table grapes. Make no mistake, Italy is no worse than many other countries. Today Labor day, it seems appropriate to remember those who toil in the vineyards in the United States, in Italy and elsewhere.

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