For Global Business and Deconstructing Poverty Day, we woke up at 6:00am and traveled to Consorcio Azucarero in the city Barahona, where we learned about the process in which sugar is extracted and packaged by workers to be sold in both the Dominican Republic and the United States and European countries. We learned about the planting and harvesting of the sugar cane, the reservoir, which both provides jobs for fishermen in addition to supplying the irrigation for the sugar cane, and the refining of the sugar in the factory. We also met Pablo Garcia, one of the administrators for the sugar company, who answered questions about the process of farming and packaging sugar, and his views on the working conditions for the employees and the entire operation. As we listened to Pablo’s responses to our questions, we began to get suspicious about the truthfulness of his answers. And after talking to the workers who lived in the Bateys (the place where some of the sugar mill workers lived) we got an idea of the quality of life and working conditions of the workers in the operation and how these companies exploit these employees in order to maximize their profits. Many of the current (and former) workers expressed how the methods used to grow the sugar cane, like the use of pesticides and other chemicals, created things like respiratory problems among the communities living nearby, and how their jefes, or bosses, care little about their well-being and health. They said that if they were injured or otherwise incapacitated and were no longer able to work, instead of helping to pay for their medical expenses and allowing them to get better, they simply lost their job.
This issue had a big impact on me because it made me experience firsthand the gravity of this problem of poor working conditions and how it connects to goods and services in the United States. Before the trip, my family and I were careful of the kinds of goods we bought at the supermarket and other stores, but I never really had a deep understanding of why it was so important to know where your products are coming from. After experiencing firsthand what a company can do to their workers even under the protection of law, I can finally internalize the importance of what my family does and chooses to support in our community, such as buying from the farmers market and buying local goods. Overall, the experience I had today will hopefully not only change me as a person but also allow me to change perspectives in my own community at home.