green bean farm in Little Haiti
A farm in the south suburbs of Miami/Photo: Odelin Casseus

In Miami, Haitian agricultural workers from “Little Haiti” who work in the green bean harvest are subjected to slavery -to put a name on it. They work seven days a week and are paid per piece, with no social benefits.

Pauline* is a 20-year-old Haitian woman from southern Haiti. She arrived at Miami through the family reunification program, six months ago.  His father Mr. Jacob* talked to the boss to get her a job in the camp.  Her day starts at 4 am and ends at 7 pm. Every morning the “bossman,” a nickname given to the supervisor, gathers his team, in a bright yellow bus. He runs through the streets of Little Haiti to pick up the daily workers from their homes. By 4:45 in the morning, everyone is already on board.  The bossman takes them to the “South West” the location of the large agricultural farms. Depending on the distance of the farm, the trip could last between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours.

During prayer times, the passengers sing choruses. “It is for us a daily ritual,” said Pauline*, “it is our way to request protection from God against road accidents and hot sun.” During this intense moment, smartphones are turned off to prevent video broadcasts. Once this is over, the passengers take breakfast. This meal is not just breakfast; it is a heavy meal, which should provide them with the necessary energy for a whole working day.

“Once in the garden, we see two men in uniform, sky blue shirts, and dark blue pants, black boots. They had Caucasian ascent.  They are two representatives of the company that operates the farm. They bring buckets for workers to pick green beans.”

Further away, they installed portable toilets for the workers. Without delay, the team leader distributed the buckets to them and placed each of them in the appropriate place to pick up the green beans.

But, workers get paid by the piece. That means their earing is based on the number of green beans harvested. “Each bucket is picked, weighed, and emptied into a truck.  If it reaches the required number of pounds, you got a ticket; otherwise, you have to get back in the field to have it completed,” Pauline explained. “A ticket is equivalent to four dollars. This way, a worker gets as many tickets for as many buckets picked.”

“We only stop if we want to go to the toilet. We go there when we are thirsty to drink a little water.  Otherwise, you have to collect very quickly, then line up to weigh a new bucket, to get a new ticket.” As daily workers, their earning will depend on their workforces. Since, no health insurance, no vacation, no sick leave, and no obligation to take a break on the field.

At the end of the day, Pauline* got eleven tickets. She was happy.  However, other workers who are more experienced got up to twenty-two.  Does Pauline like her job? “It is not my preferred one,” she replied. “I am obliged to do it because I do not have other alternatives.  I don’t speak English, here on the farm, you are not asked to speak any foreign language. We deal with Haitians.  I’m not afraid to work hard, to take care of myself.  I don’t want to sleep with the “bossman” as some young women do.”

“I don’t feel like I’m getting enough respect here. Some guys wouldn’t even dare look at me on the street if I were in Haiti. Since they are in the United States, they keep making passes at me. They want me to have sexual intercourse with them for the money. Because I’m in need,” she concludes.  This workday is over, and she has time to get back home to prepare for tomorrow.