As many of you know, I was born and raised in Italy – I love my country and I try to keep up with whatever goes on back home as much as possible.
At the beginning of July, the culmination of an ongoing investigation into a phenomenon called "caporalato," the father of producer Valentina Passalacqua (VP) was put under home arrest and his 5 companies put under third-party management.
Caporalato is a system of exploitation of labor that's been plaguing Southern Italy for decades – Northern Italy too, to a lesser extent. Migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe, living in shantytowns, as well as impoverished locals, are recruited by "caporali" to perform agricultural work for little pay in ominous working conditions at local farms.
VP's father is accused of employing over 200 such workers during the past year at the family estate – one of the largest in the area – where VP winery operation is also located. VP had been involved in the family business several years prior to launching her wine operation.
I find the proximity and the longstanding involvement of VP in the family business – in itself not enough to incriminate her according to Italian law – extremely problematic, and that's why I stopped selling her wines right after the news broke, also informing VP's distributors/importers.
Caporalato is an extremely complex issue – like most issues affecting Italy it's a mix of century-old practices as well as new geopolitical developments – and VP herself expressed the willingness to "change the mentality that's spreading on her land." It is a carcinogenic practice that must be stopped.
I believe that when such gross violations of basic human rights are committed on a family property, action more than words are needed; turning a blind eye is the least sustainable practice of all and cannot be tolerated.
I also believe that VP could've been more transparent in the wake of the arrests, her silence is growing louder and louder.