Wednesday, October 27, 2010
People With No Names - The Undocumented #34
This oil on canvas (18"x24") depicts agricultural workers in a local greenhouse. Yesterday on NPR I heard a story discussing the impact of immigration policy on (specifically) apple picking in the U.S. It seems that even a weak economy and scads of unemployed Americans will not entice the American worker to 'go down on the farm'. A Washington state apple farmer says that he prefers immigrant labor because they will work 7 days a week/ 14 hour days if he asks them to, with no bitching, happy to do it". He does not want American labor because in his words, "they just won't do it". An American woman, unemployed, said she won't work there because there is a social barrier, then she paused and added, "it's hard work". (Incidently, this woman is married to a Latino and speaks fluent Spanish!) The grower pays $15/bin (a bin is 900 lbs.) and a fast worker can make $120/day. The crew boss introduced a worker named Martina from Oaxaca who picks 8 bins/day and proudly boasted that she is a "mujer" (woman)! The Latino crew boss says that he, " understands that the grower cannot pay more than he makes...if Americans want low prices at the supermarket, the growers can't pay higher wages in the orchard. American growers are under pressure due to cheaper apples coming in from Chile and China." (Personally, with China's toxic track record, I would not want to eat an apple shipped from China.) With wages $15-$20/bin, work orders for 150 American workers have gone unanswered.