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As a teenager I spent few hot summer weeks out in the fields -- harvesting crops for minimum wage

-- berries, tomatoes, cantaloups, pumpkins, pruning the canes for next years crops.

It was hard, tedious, grueling work, which left my muscles and back racked with pain most evenings.  The experience was enough to convince me to get my apps into college as fast as I could, and get an education no matter whether I could afford it, or not.

Unfortunately many of the unseen "worker bees" in our society, often don't have such a "second option" at the end of the summer -- their die is cast from the moment hunger drives them to endure the thankless toil under the hot sun, in the "land of opportunity" ... the land of plenty where the dreams (of survival) are made possible ...

Until at least those meager opportunities are blocked, by very short-sighted Americans, implementing a very short-sighted agenda:


Georgia’s New Immigration Law Leading To Crops Rotting In Farmers’ Fields

House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.

It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.
[...]


Well the common refrain is:   Can't Americans do those {back-breaking} Immigrant Jobs?
Well, they can.  But few do:


Farm workers: Take our jobs, please!

by Aaron Smith, staff writer  CNNMoney.com -- July 10, 2010

"Farm workers do the work that most Americans are not willing to do," said union president Arturo Rodriguez in the announcement of the campaign.

At least half a million applicants are needed to replace the immigrant workforce [500,000], so the union has posted an online application for Americans who want to work on a farm.
[...]

Since June 24, at least 4,000 people have responded to the application, said Rodriguez. Some are serious responses and others are hate mail. "Only a few dozen have really followed through with the process," he said.

Most applicants quickly lose interest once the reality sinks in that these are back-breaking jobs in triple-digit temperatures that pay minimum wage, usually without benefits, according to the union. Some small farms are not required to pay minimum wage and in 15 states farms aren't required to offer workers' compensation.
[...]


And even fewer {American workers, such as myself} stay at this 'golden opportunity' of 'gainful employment' for more than a season ...


Kind of makes you wonder if the Tea Party Nation thought this through in Georgia, when they 'laid down the law' against those migrant workers, in their "America-first patriotic fervor"?

Maybe they should have asked a few Georgia farmers, what they thought about this brave new prohibition ... that would 'fix their Tea Party outrage'?


Georgia Farmers Face Another Worker Shortage Because Of Harmful Immigration Law

by Amanda Peterson Beadle, thinkprogress.org -- Apr 13, 2012

As soon as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a harmful immigration bill into law last year, farmers saw an immediate exodus of thousands of skilled immigrant farm workers. Without enough workers, millions of dollars in crops rotted in the fields because there was no one to harvest them. Officials suggested that farmers could turn to the H2A guest worker program to hire temporary pickers, but that has not worked out for many farmers.

[...]
But if Deal and Georgia Republicans had stopped to consider how the state’s anti-immigrant law would affect workers and employers before they approved it, then the state could have avoided more than $800 million in estimated farm losses last year. So far, it looks as if Georgia’s farmers could lose just as much this year.
[...]


Since the rightwing loves to talk about the Free Market, and the wisdom of "Supply and Demand," maybe they should take the experience in Georgia as an 'object lesson' ...

as a case in point of what really happens when plentiful "cheap and willing labor" is prevented from "meeting the immense market demand" ...


Georgia's Harsh Immigration Law Costs Millions in Unharvested Crops

by Megan McArdle, theAtlantic -- Jun 21 2011

[...]
The economics here aren't particularly complicated, [...]

It goes like this. If you're not going to let illegal immigrants do the jobs they are currently being hired to do, then farmers will have to raise wages to replace them. Since farmers are taking a risk in hiring immigrant workers, you can bet they were getting a significant deal on wage costs relative to "market wages". I put market wages here in quotations, because it's quite possible that the wages required to get workers to do the job are so high that it's no longer profitable for farmers to plant the crops in the first place. The simple labor market supply and demand curves below illustrate exactly what I'm talking about.

Here the leftward shift in the labor supply curve when moving to a market with immigrants to one without reflects the fact that for any given wage, there are less people willing to do the job. If the supply curve shifts far enough to the left, the equilibrium quantity of labor becomes negative, meaning that farmers will hire zero workers. If workers are needed to run a farm, then zero workers is the same as zero crops, and zero farm. Some labor may be replaced with capital, but in other cases the farms might just shut down.
[...]


It seems the lesson is -- a LOT of stuff just won't get done -- without a plentiful supply of immigrant labor to do it.   That or Americans must be willing to pay more for the "Fair Trade" label on all our 'healthy snacks' ...

That will probably happen about as soon as Americans acknowledge that a 'cap and trade' market structure would provide important innovative incentives -- and not just market burdens.

In other words, not any time soon.


Meanwhile those Corporations-first forces, aren't ones to let "even cheaper" labor opportunities go to waste ... not when there's a Profit to made:


Farmworker Justice and NAACP Condemn Use of Georgia Immates for Onion Harvest

posted by immigrantworkerjustice.org -- Apr 23, 2012

From our allies at Farmworker Justice and NAACP:

Use of Prisoners for Vidalia Onion Harvest Underlines Agricultural Labor Problems:

ATLANTA – The NAACP and advocates for the rights of farmworkers today condemned the state of Georgia’s use of prison inmates to harvest Vidalia onions in response to claims of an agricultural labor shortage.  Last week amidst complaints from growers demanding more workers, the Georgia Department of Corrections sent transitional inmates from Smith State Prison to work for an onion grower in Glennville.

This practice is shocking and regressive,” said Edward O. Dubose, President of the NAACP Georgia State Conference. “The fact that the state is resorting to forced labor to fix economic problems created by our failed immigration policies tells us that something has gone horribly wrong here in Georgia.”
[...]


Because, in the calculus of the "free market" devotees, the only thing worse than letting Crops go to waste for lack of labor -- is letting all that Profit go to waste, for lack of labor camps.

And if they got a ready and able work force waiting in the wings, willing compelled to work for $0-wages -- what could be better fodder to feed that unquenchable appetite of that American profit-seeking machine ... than good old fashion class-exploitation.




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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)


    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:22:40 AM PDT

  •  Watch. Forced prison labor will become the norm. (7+ / 0-)

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:30:03 AM PDT

  •  Excellent analysis, jamess (7+ / 0-)

    I spent a summer picking tomatoes in greenhouses, starting my work day at 5 in the morning before the sun's heat (and the volatilizing pesticides) made working conditions truly intolerable.

    I gained a great respect for those for whom this line of work was more than a summer job on the way to a professional career.

    The thought that produce is rotting in the fields of Georgia while thousands go to bed hungry or malnourished is another very troubling aspect of this impasse.

    Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle. -- Woody Allen

    by cassandracarolina on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:31:24 AM PDT

  •  Excellent write up and analysis (4+ / 0-)

    As I've written before, so much in this world could be fixed with fair trade and strong stances on duties and tariffs.

    NAFTA did so much harm its almost incalculable.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:14:35 AM PDT

    •  now if only (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bfitzinAR

      we could invent

      an UNDO-NAFTA


      now that would be a step in the right direction.


      thanks idbecrazyif for the comments


      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:25:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is almost no sense to it anymore (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess, bfitzinAR

        The industries that shipped to Mexico have now been shipped to China and elsewhere, and since it doesn't look like we're going to do anything about it one has to hope that the Mexican government wakes up and understands how NAFTA obliterated its agricultural sector.

        --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

        by idbecrazyif on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:32:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Picking various crops fast and efficiently (7+ / 0-)

    is really skilled labor, especially when you are sorting through various degrees of ripened/unripened produce. Gathering up a bunch of people from the prison won't work!

  •  The "great" Lambert - as in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Egalitare

    Blanche Lambert Lincoln, former Senator from AR, family rice plantations were built on prison labor.  It was a "sweet" deal - slavery by any other name, in fact - arrest people for walking while black and then "farm them out" to the highest bidder.  The elite have learned quite well from history and are panting to repeat it - education of the masses was the only thing standing in their way and you can see what they did about that.

  •  So those farmers would rather suffer... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess

    ...complete loss of revenue, the sunk costs of planting, fertilizing, etc. this year than (and I'm just guessing here) deign to pay higher wages to anyone, legal or legal-challenged.  

    Because THAT would mean less than sector expert generated projected profit margins they promised "the Street", and we cannot have that, for Pete's sake.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:00:16 AM PDT

  •  I appreciate the analysis. It is sad that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess

    xenophobia is more important to some people than anything else.  It kind of says something that free market capitalism, what the GOP preaches, falls somewhere behind allowing "those brown people" from breathing within these borders.  I am sure it won't hurt their mantra of "immigration kills the economy" or "they took our jobs!" anytime soon.

  •  Farm labor is a skilled occupation. You have to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, FG, Eric Nelson

    know what to pick at what to leave. And ensuring that the crops are undamaged is equally important. These people deserve our respect and a decent standard of living. Yet we make them out to be criminals. I live in Central Florida and a big part of the economy are crops like strawberries. It does not get more labor intensive than that.

    Under the normal "laws" of economics wages for agricultural workers should be high. But they are kept artificially high by the threat of deportation. If there was a guest worker program would that inflate wages for farm workers?

    Why do we not hear about farm owners trying to improve conditions for the workers that bring in the crop. We hear a lot about the sanctity of the family farm but does any one believe that a strawberry farmer sends his kids into the fields?

    My kid went to school in farm country. Ranching, strawberry, orange orchids. Poor kids worked on the farms, but the owners kids did not work on the farms.

    And so the farm workers are payed piece rate. That is a mighty motivation to work sick. And to violate child labor laws.

    •  great points kmackle (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson


      kind of puts a new slant,

      on the "family values" arguments


      -- only if they are American Families,

      do "family values" matter,

      from the con point of view.


      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:05:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes you are right. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess

        It has always bothered me that the family values crowd hate welfare checks and day care programs at the same time. They wish to gut the public school system and they blame crime on poor black kids that they have done nothing to help. Or white kids or Latino kids. Its like "get pregnant and we will force you to have the baby. Then we will do everything in our power to make your life miserable for the next 20 years. We will humiliate you at every turn and then we will offer you poor job training programs that you will go into debt for to the tune of $40,000 or more. And we will ostracize you and your family. And all because you amde a stupid mistake as a high schooler. But if you where white and middle class we will arrange a quiet abortion so as not to get in the way of your life."

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