Tuesday, July 11, 2006

As Citrus Rots, So Rots The Nation

citrusThe Guardian reports that Florida citrus may rot in the fields for lack of workers to pick it:
“Growers have reported difficulty finding enough workers. Industry officials say labour problems got worse in the middle of May, when a large segment of the Hispanic labour force seemed to leave the state.

They said reports of an immigration crackdown made it difficult to find Hispanic workers, who make up much of Florida's farm workforce.

"Really, the labour shortage is what held us up this year," said Dave Crumbly, the vice-president of fruit control at Florida's Natural Growers in Lake Wales, the nation's third-largest citrus processor. He said word had spread through the Hispanic community that they should return home if they wanted jobs in the US in future. The workers were told they could get deported if they remained in the country, he said. But if they returned home, they would become eligible for a guest-worker programme that is part of the immigration reform bill.

"In reality, the current guest-worker programme bars anybody who has been in this country illegally," Mr Carlton said. There are still tens of millions of oranges on Florida's trees, according to the US department of agriculture, one of the highest totals on record, he added.”
Maybe if they paid a living wage for the work, they could find someone. According to the Florida Farm Bureau:
“Florida Farm Bureau is concerned that the current public focus on immigration and immigration reform may lack accurate information about farming and farm worker pay. “There appears to be a perception that agricultural producers are paying less than minimum wage to foreign workers,” said Kevin Morgan, FFB director of agricultural policy. “In fact, the average wage paid to farm workers by Florida growers is far higher than the state or federal minimum wage.” Florida farm workers are paid, on average, more than $9 an hour, according to farm labor statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture. These statistics show that, contrary to popular notions, farm workers are being paid a fair wage. Field harvesters are paid at least the state minimum wage of $6.40, which is above the federal minimum wage of $5.15.”
As a teenager I worked for awhile picking strawberries, and I can tell you that field work is exhausting, back-breaking labor, and certainly not worth working for Florida’s princely sum of $6.40 an hour. If they paid a decent wage, they might be able to find people to work for them, foreign or not. “Then the cost of citrus would be too high”, I hear America whining. Well, wait till you see the shortage-induced cost of your oranges this winter (when you can find them), especially after the high cost of hauling it in gasoline-powered trucks gets added in. At least if they paid a living wage to the people who pick our food we could have the moral satisfaction of knowing that there was for a good reason for paying the higher price.

This also belies the cri de coeur of the anti-immigration Right that Americans go without jobs because those damned Mexicans (Ronald Reagan: "You'd be surprised; they're all different countries!") take them all. Right now, famed human rights activist James Sensenbrenner is hard at work pushing this xenophobic crack in the chamber of the House, and the gullible American masses buy this racist horseshit, especially the poor, who have been so screwed by the Bush economic policy of eliminating labor outright when it can't be forced into a sweatshop. They not only buy it, it makes them feel all warm and righteous inside, the way that only hate with a clear conscience combined with sheer ignorance can induce. Oh, yes, they're just dying to get their hands on jobs like these:
"Farm work is considered to be second only to mining in the rating of most hazardous occupations. There is a high exposure to pesticides through topical exposure, inhalation, and ingestion, resulting in the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any group in the United States. Farm injuries, exposure to heat and sun, and poor sanitation in the fields are other factors that contribute to the dangers of this work. Every year nearly three hundred children die and twenty-four thousand are injured in farm work.

Housing regulations attempt to provide decent living conditions for migrant workers, but housing is often overcrowded, poorly maintained, and lacking in ventilation, bathing facilities, and safe drinking water. These conditions contribute to an increased risk of accidents, sanitation-related diseases, and infectious diseases...

Unstable living and working conditions, conflicts arising from the process of acculturation, perceptions of mental illness, isolation, and discrimination all contribute to a high incidence of metal-health problems among migrant farmworkers. A 2000 study documented a 26.7 percent incidence of psychiatric disorders among a sample of male Mexican farmworkers in California. A national survey of migrant women showed that approximately 20 percent had experienced physical or sexual abuse during the previous year."
There's your American Dream. Why, it's a wonder there aren't overflow crowds beating down the unemployment office doors to get at these opportunities. At $6.40 an hour you can't go wrong!

Oh, hell...what's the use. The Republicans will use this to mitigate their damages and hang on to their incumbencies by the skins of their teeth, and then everything will go back to normal. In the meantime, as the Voting Rights Act dies a tortured death, we will continue our devolution back to a blatantly racist social construct. Maybe Hate Radio will eventually rid us of the Tutsis in our midst.

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