Io schiavo in Puglia. I was a slave in Puglia.
September 4, 2006 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I was a slave in Puglia. A long first-person exposé, in English, about immigrant slave labor in Italy, from Fabrizio Gatti writing in the Italian newspaper L'Espresso. "I can hire you. Tomorrow," he promises. "Do you have a girl friend?" "A girlfriend?" "You have to bring me a woman. For the boss. If you bring him one, he'll put you to work right away. Any girl will do." He points to a twenty year-old woman and her companion, working on the conveyor belt of a huge tractor that is being used to gather tomatoes. "Those two are Romanians, just like you. She slept with the boss." "But I'm alone." "No work for you then." Photo galleries. Italian version (includes additional sidebars not found in the English version, including local and government reaction to the exposé and more photo galleries under the sidebar "Reportage Fotografico.")
posted by Mo Nickels (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Grim. Calls to mind the gangs of exploited Chinese cockle-pickers on Morecambe Bay.
posted by jack_mo at 4:49 PM on September 4, 2006

The webserver is doing all sorts of crazy things when I try to navigate the pages :/
posted by onalark at 5:04 PM on September 4, 2006

That is imho a very interesting article , of that kind that very seldom appears on any well-known, mass distributed italian magazine such as Espresso. Some say it's brutal, I think it is just honest.

Yet it is NOT eye opening for many people. The fact that the same unit of tomato/whatever vegetable can be bought in mass quantities at 5eurocents/unit and then is usually resold to ordinary markets at 60c/unit or up to 280c/unit is incredible, I guess people still couldn't believe SUCH profit was possible, but now it is more easily understood if one considers that slaves were treated BETTER then tomato pickers in the article.

Indeed as slaves were property they were an investment and so deserved, in the eyes of the "owner" , a good "maintenance" ; that isn't true of illegal immigrants, but also of desperate legal ones .... and they are the only ones would pick at that payrates.

So obviously who will take the convenient blame for this step back in middle age ? But of course , the government who practically allows immigrants come ; Except that nobody forced "bosses" to hire them support illegal work and practical slavery ; yet this is of no consequence for the brainwashed cargocultist "enterpreneurs" who consider monetary profit as the only possible and meaningful exercise of freedom.

Yet if their freedom infringes on my freedom, something is wrong. Slave works indirectly harms me because it strenghtens an absurd economy in which the same rich idiots of yesterday want to become "competitive" which China or whatever without doing anything, without even understanding it is NOT a viable way. Yet who cares, profit first, privatization of profit socialization of cost.
posted by elpapacito at 5:19 PM on September 4, 2006

Printable version link ,english
posted by elpapacito at 5:20 PM on September 4, 2006

Scary, horrifying, depressing. I had to start skimming after a while. I was going to say "Why don't newspapers do more of this kind of reporting?" but then I realized what a stupid question that would be. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 5:35 PM on September 4, 2006

Outstanding, thanks Mo Nickels. This is what I read MetaFilter for.
posted by intermod at 6:02 PM on September 4, 2006

Porca miseria...
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:14 PM on September 4, 2006

They sure are treated like shit and the mafiaesque farmers are certainly criminals who should be prosecuted.

But that said, I don't think that the laborers are slaves. It's not like they don't have a choice. It seems that if they want to leave, all they have to do is take a run for it and turn themselves in at the nearest police station (and be deported to their home countries).

Heck, some of those laborers seem to be so desperate for a tomato picking job that they are even willing to sell their wife or girlfriend for it (see first paragraphs).
posted by sour cream at 5:08 AM on September 5, 2006

Thanks Mo Nickels - excellent yet depressing.
(suggestion: add a "slavery" tag so this post will be included)
posted by madamjujujive at 5:37 AM on September 5, 2006

Others ran away. The gang masters searched for them all night long. It was a scene similar to the manhunts in Alan Parker's film, "Mississippi Burning." In the end, some of them were captured and some of them were killed.
Hunted down and possibly killed if you try to leave? Sounds exactly like slavery to me.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:05 AM on September 5, 2006

You may also be hunted down and killed if you're part of the Mafia and try to leave. Yet you wouldn't call the average Mafiosi a "slave". The same punishment also goes for soldiers in many armies.

Also, the first paragraphs imply that there is no shortage of, uh, applicants for tomato picking jobs.

In any case, it seems that they are getting themselves into this voluntarily. It's not like anyone forces them to become farm laborers in Italy.
posted by sour cream at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2006

But it is exactly like someone forces them to stay there forever, even if they change their minds.
posted by pracowity at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2006

It's not like anyone economic forces compel them to become farm laborers in Italy.
posted by asok at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2006

I just read about this journalist's reporting on Lampedusa in the Globe & Mail this weekend.

Wearing no shoes and a lifejacket bearing the Arabic word for happiness, he threw himself into the waters off Lampedusa and spent 4½ hours floating before being rescued by locals. He was treated warmly at first, but a few hours later ended up in the hands of the carabinieri, or military police. He told them he was from Kurdistan, and was taken off to the centre.

This is a great article.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2006

Choice? Hopefully, you will never face the misfortune of learning firsthand the risks that people will take to feed their families when faced with bone-crushing poverty. I'm not sure if I'd call it "choice" for the poor peoples of this world to try to survive as best they can. It's up to right-thinking societies to ensure that workers aren't abused and treated like vermin.

I don't know how this could be considered anything but enslavement:

Others ran away. The gang masters searched for them all night long. It was a scene similar to the manhunts in Alan Parker's film, "Mississippi Burning." In the end, some of them were captured and some of them were killed.


In this area the authorities have already found the bodies of a few laborers. Slavomit R., a 44-year-old Pole, was burned to death on July 2, 2005, in a field near Stornara. The case is still unsolved. Just like the case of two unidentified bodies found near Foggia.

We have similar shameful situations in the U.S..
posted by madamjujujive at 10:15 AM on September 5, 2006

there's no one like Gatti, mad props to him. he's been doing this stuff for years, he almost got his balls shot off by a racist cop a few years ago, he was pretending to be an illegal immigrant and the guy was about to play Russian roulette aiming at his crotch

Gatti is world class
posted by matteo at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2006

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