The Mushroom industry in the United States earns more than $800 million dollars per year, and the state of Pennsylvania is by far the largest mushroom producer in the nation. The people who harvest these Mushrooms are almost entirely from Mexico and they work in taxing and dangerous conditions. Mushrooms are a chemical intensive crop and so far there has not been any research done into the effects of daily exposure to these chemicals. Mushrooms are grown in dark damp enclosures and harvesting is always done in the wee hours of the night so as to have the mushrooms fresh to the packers by dawn. The major mushroom companies say this is necessary to maximize the shelf life of their product.
Recently mushroom workers in Pennsylvania joined together to form a union and since their unionization the workers have faced harassment and in some cases union leaders have even been fired. Last Sunday, at a healthcare rally in Philadelphia, which called for drastic changes in the Republican healthcare policy, some of the mushroom workers told their stories.
- Eduardo Ortega, a delegate of the United Agricultural and Mushroom Workers Union.
- Maria De Los Angeles Garcia, a representative of the Women’s Committee of VLASIC which is the Mushroom company she works for.
- Muna El-Shakhs, an organizer with CATA (The Farmworkers Support Committee). Call: 610 444 9696.
- Jessica Cully, an Intern with CATA (The Farmworkers support Committee)