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Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to North America. For those looking to relocate within the US or Canada, discuss your experiences and pros/cons of each domestic region.
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Immigrant farm workers' challenge: Take our jobs
AP - Thursday, June 24, 2010 7:42:01 AM By JULIANA BARBASSA
Photo By AP
In a tongue-in-cheek call for immigration reform, farm workers are teaming up with comedian Stephen Colbert to challenge unemployed Americans: Come on, take our jobs.
Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy, said Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers of America.
So the group is encouraging the unemployed -- and any Washington pundits or anti-immigrant activists who want to join them -- to apply for the some of thousands of agricultural jobs being posted with state agencies as harvest season begins.
All applicants need to do is fill out an online form under the banner "I want to be a farm worker" at http://www.takeourjobs.org, and experienced field hands will train them and connect them to farms.
According to the Labor Department, three out of four farm workers were born abroad, and more than half are illegal immigrants.
Proponents of tougher immigration laws have argued that farmers have become used to cheap labor and don't want to raise wages enough to draw in other workers.
Those who have done the job have some words of advice for applicants: First, dress appropriately.
During summer, when the harvest of fruits and vegetables is in full swing in California's Central Valley, temperatures hover in the triple digits. Heat exhaustion is one of the reasons farm labor consistently makes the Bureau of Labor Statistics' top ten list of the nation's most dangerous jobs.
Second, expect long days. Growers have a small window to pick fruit before it is overripe.
And don't count on a big paycheck. Farm workers are excluded from federal overtime provisions, and small farms don't even have to pay the minimum wage. Fifteen states don't require farm labor to be covered by workers compensation laws.
"The reality is farmworkers who are here today aren't taking any American jobs away. They work in often unbearable situations," Rodriguez said. "I don't think there will be many takers, but the offer is being made. Let's see what happens."
To highlight how unlikely the prospect of Americans lining up to pick strawberries or grapes, Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" plans to feature the "Take Our Jobs" campaign on July 8.
The campaign is being played for jokes, but the need to secure the right to work for immigrants who are here is serious business, said Michael Rubio, supervisor in Kern County, one of the biggest ag producing counties in the nation.
"Our county, our economy, rely heavily on the work of immigrant and unauthorized workers," he said. "I would encourage all our national leaders to come visit Kern County and to spend one day, or even half a day, in the shoes of these farm workers."
Hopefully, the message will go down easier with some laughs, said Manuel Cunha, president of the California grower association Nisei Farmers League, who was not a part of the campaign.
"If you don't add some humor to this, it's enough to get you drinking, and I don't mean Pepsi," Cunha said, dismissing the idea that Americans would take up the farm workers' offer.
California's agriculture industry launched a similar campaign in 1998, hoping to recruit welfare recipients and unemployed workers to work on farms, he said. Three people showed up.
"Give us a legal, qualified work force. Right now, farmers don't know from day to day if they're going to get hammered by ICE," he said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "What happens to my labor pool?"
His organization supports AgJobs, a bill currently in the Senate which would allow those who have worked in U.S. agriculture for at least 150 days in the previous two years to get legal status.
The bill has been proposed in various forms since the late 1990s, with backing from the United Farm Workers of America and other farming groups, but has never passed.
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One thing is not being mentioned: these farm workers work for "low wages" because to a Mexican or any other Latin American they are not that low given the low cost of living in those countries. You do not see a German or a Japanese or a Kuwaiti toiling in the US strawberry fields. Mexicans will do it because they can buy a house for 5K. Their banks pay some 20-40% interest too. They need to also promote international living, learning Spanish and living in their cheap countries.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!
I am not about to take one of their jobs now, no more than I will take a burger flippers job. Farm worker's jobs? I have had their job.
As kid and on up into college even in Oregon, I picked strawberries and cherries with the best of them. I was not the only white guy picking with the Mexicans. And no, we did not want minimum wage. Skilled pickers did not want a wage, we wanted to be paid by
our productivity- by the pound. This was for Mexicans as well as whites..we worked for the same rate. A good strawberry picker
could exceed 500 lbs in a day @ 10cents a pound. At the time the minimum wage was about 3 bucks, so you can see, I was making about double the minimum wage of the day. Its not a life I would wish on anyone, and unlike most of the Mexican pickers, I was on track to a different life. But it does teach respect, and that life's issues are more complicated than the crap you read in articles like the one above.
Some workers were real shitheads...as were some farmers. At the same time, I saw farmers go ahead an have a crop picked in a year when they would make zero money on it after paying labor and expenses...they did it just to keep the same families employed that may have worked for them for decades...as soon as media-mouths and grand-standers get a hold of anything...it turns to farce.