This December 10th marks the 75th anniversary of Human Rights Day, a day dedicated to honoring and advocating for the inherent dignity and equal rights of all individuals. On this significant occasion, we invite you to revisit the 2007 SXSW Award-winning documentary, THE PRICE OF SUGAR.
Set against the backdrop of the sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic, THE PRICE OF SUGAR exposes the harrowing experiences of up to 20,000 Haitians annually lured into laboring under grueling conditions.
Narrated by Paul Newman, this important story chronicles the efforts of Catholic priest Christopher Hartley, who, appalled by these injustices, dedicates himself to improving the lives of these workers. His mission, however, incites the wrath of powerful plantation owners, revealing a harrowing tale of conflict and courage. THE PRICE OF SUGAR raises key questions about where the products we consume originate, at what cost they are produced and ultimately, where our responsibility lies.
“If people could see at what price they put sugar in their coffee every morning, they would be absolutely horrified at the living and working conditions of thousands and thousands of men, women, and children. It is horrendous to think that the blood, sweat, and tears of Haitian migrant workers have been slaving away for generations so that we could put sugar on our table.”
–Father Christopher Hartley
After the film's release and in response to a petition from Father Hartley, the US Department of Labor released a 42-page report in 2013 confirming evidence of apparent and potential violations of labor law and workers' rights. They earmarked $10 million to reduce child labor, expand labor rights and improve working conditions, however violations persist today, as reported by Mother Jones in 2021.
Just last year, the US banned sugar imports from another top Dominican producer, Central Romana, over forced labor allegations including abuse of vulnerability, isolation, withholding of wages, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime.While Central Romana has made some small improvements in the past year, they seem more focused on buying their way back into our kitchens. According to the Corporate Accountability Lab, Central Romana spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars on lobbying in the first 3 quarters of 2023 alone.
As we mark this 75th Human Rights Day, your viewership and awareness can be a powerful force in advocating for change. By understanding the true cost of sugar production and the human stories behind it, we can begin to make more informed and ethical choices in our daily lives. Let's stand together in solidarity with those who labor under unjust conditions and use our collective voice to demand fair and humane practices.