Solidarity u. n. Mutual support and unity of interests, aims and actions among members of a group.
Empowerment u. n. The process of gaining freedom and power to do what you want or to control what happens to you.
It’s even more difficult to be competitive for a medium-size winery in a place like Mendoza.
In 2021, the total value of Argentina’s wine exports reached $817 million for bottled wine and $1000 million for bulk wine. 89.6% of these exports come from Mendoza. There are about 1,200 wineries in this region and its vineyards cover 149,000 hectares.
Mariela draws attention to the fact that Bodega Alta Vista wasn’t and isn’t indifferent to this reality. The company’s goal was to reach equity and to offer better working conditions. In exchange for the labor that requires such great “sacrifice”, it tried to give its staff and the communities surrounding the vineyards that stand at the feet of the Andes, similar benefits to those offered by Fair Trade.
It is even more difficult to be competitive for a medium-size winery in a place like Mendoza.
In 2021, the total value of Argentina’s wine exports reached $817 million for bottled wine and $1000 million for bulk wine2. 89.6% of these exports come from Mendoza3. There are near 1,200 wineries4 in this region, and its vineyards cover 149,0005 hectares.
But Mariela emphasizes that Bodega Alta Vista is not indifferent to this reality. The company wanted to seek equity and better working conditions for its employees and the communities at the foot of the Andes benefits such as those offered by fair trade for this hard work.
Their lack of indifference led to the creation of the Flores del Monte Association which is the fruit of the effort of the Bodega Alta Vista workers (all members of the Premium Committee). This Committee is in charge of both managing the Premium earned with the sale of Fairtrade-labelled wine and running a non-profit organization.
The journey started 13 years ago “No one believed people would be willing to pay a little more […] and that this small amount would make its way back to the workers who could then use it to take action”. [Graciela Drago, transactions]
You need to start by changing mindsets. You have to believe there is some distributive justice out there and that work can be fairly compensated. Some left but then came back when they realized it was the real deal. There was no catch.
Then, it was time for what happens behind the curtains, creating an association: “recording meeting minutes, looking at the accounting side, in other words, they had a lot to learn” [Graciela Drago, transactions] all while facing the fear of failure, the fear of missing out on this opportunity. “The work is not visible (…) it seems easy from the outside and it’s a compromise” admits Anita [ member of the Premium Committee], who has just joined the Committee.
Then, it was time for what happens behind the curtains, creating an association: “recording meeting minutes, looking at the accounting side, in other words, they had a lot to learn” [Graciela Drago, transactions] all while facing the fear of failure, the fear of missing out on this opportunity. “The work is not visible (…) it seems easy from the outside, and it’s a compromise,” admits Anita [member of the Premium Committee], who has just joined the Committee.
The association is composed of 50 partners who all work for Bodega Alta Vista. It’s a complicated task to agree on how to use the money. While at the start it was a small amount, today it varies constantly due to Argentina’s huge inflation rate. “We learnt to appreciate, to make group decisions”. As the farm manager and having been there since the start and present at the annual assembly meetings during which they decide how to use the Premium, Alex is well-aware of this. They discovered “the needs of each party” [Alex Condri, farm manager].
Many of these needs have been met.
“Another thing we learnt with the association was that the children of workers can also access education, as it is something they can rarely afford.” [Alex Condri, Encargado de Finca]
“I wouldn’t have been able to study without the association.” [Patricia González, Operaria]
“It helped me a lot as I was the only one working with two daughters.” [Juan Carlos Fiaño Franco, operator, member of the Premium Committee]
The Premium has been used for different purposes: to finance scholarships for workers and their children; for food parcels put together following the nutritional surveys of household recommendations and in which disinfectants were added during COVID; to provide orthopedic prosthetics to the children of workers who aren’t able to afford them…
Some of The Premium uses have been scholarships for workers and their children; food bags, made based on nutritional studies of families, to which we added cleaning products during COVID; orthopedic prostheses provided to workers’ children, who couldn’t buy them.
This has led to a chain of solidarity growing stronger “I like it a lot. We have colleagues who were struggling and we’ve been able to help.” [Andrea Serna, Administración, Miembro del Comité de Prima]
With their own fundraising initiatives, as “at the start the Premium was very low” [Andrea Serna, administration, member of the Premium Committee], and bydedicating 25% of their budget for community actions and efforts for seasonal workers, the Flores del Monte Association has remained faithful to the social justice it embodies.
Among the projects the Premium Committee is proud of stands the Fundavita Foundation for children with leukemia. After their shift, workers help by providing materials and dedicating their time to the restoration of a building. It will provide accommodation to parents who live far from the hospital in which their children are receiving treatment. Without it, these children from isolated areas wouldn’t be able to go to the hospital.
They provided support for a health center with essential materials such as a defibrillator, prosthetics or a scale for babies.
They repurposed a container to use as a canteen where volunteer teachers can provide tuition to the most vulnerable children from the slums around Mendoza.
“Today people know (…) applications are pouring in […] they’re aware that what we do here serves the community” [Rubén Vílchez, operator, member of the Premium Committee]
“Every day, the Committee and the Association fight in order “to cover all incoming requests” [Mariana Cynthia Álvarez, Operaria, Miembro del Comité de Prima]
The Fairtrade-labelled bottle is named Finca Monteflores. Its label was created through the collaboration of the association members and the marketing team. The images on the label encapsulate a small part of what the Fairtrade Premium brings to the table.
Over the years, the Fairtrade Premium has brought significant benefits to the workers and their communities. Thanks to Fair trade, certified associations can provide better working conditions as well as important services to their partners and to the surrounding communities, allowing for better living conditions. “It’s a little seed that has to grow, if you help me, if you buy our wine, we will help you in return” [Ana Verdulla, member of the Premium Committee]
 The Fairtrade Premium is a sum of money that is paid in addition to the retail price of a Fairtrade certified bottle or grape. The money is then managed by the Premium Committee that is made up by a group of workers who have been elected democratically. In coordination with an Assembly composed of the company’s employees, the Committee develops social projects for its communities.