10.20.11

Americans stiff Alabama farm labor

Posted in Decline and Fall at 3:51 pm by George Smith

Not quite willing to take a backbreaking job that pays only a bit above the national poverty level, a news piece today has Alabama farmers complaining Americans won’t do the work illegals and other immigrants will do in the fields.

Alabama’s anti-illegal law has resulted in a severe agricultural employee shortage as experienced workers have fled the fields and state.

From CBS News:

Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his Hispanic workers leave after Alabama’s tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn’t worked out: They show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day.

In Alabama and other parts of the country, farmers must look beyond the nation’s borders for labor because many Americans simply don’t want the backbreaking, low-paying jobs immigrants are willing to take …

Part of the problem, which isn’t baldly stated, is that many perceive the work to be slave labor.

It pays very poorly, is backbreaking and comes with significant physical hazard over the course of growing season — like sizable exposure to pesticides/toxic chemicals, dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Such jobs also have no benefits.

In the story, the growers see things differently. And this has seemingly led them to think they can inspire people to come into fields by calling out Americans as lazy, worthless and “not physically fit.”

In fact, as an expert interviewed for the story notes, American farms have essentially turned back the clock to the Forties.

“This is a sector and an industry … that a long time ago, going back to the 1940s and probably before that was abandoned,” the man told CBS. “It was abandoned to foreign workers.”

The base wage for an experienced field picker is defined in this way:

A crew of four Hispanics can earn about $150 each by picking 250-300 boxes of tomatoes in a day, said Jerry Spencer, of Grow Alabama, which purchases and sells locally owned produce. A crew of 25 Americans recently picked 200 boxes — giving them each $24 for the day.

The new story is determinedly obtuse on what this means, or at least the growers are.

This comes to $750 a week, or a bit over $570/week after taxes in Alabama, for an experienced employee who produces a high rate of return under the toughest conditions.

And that comes to $27,648.00 per year with no benefits. which is about only $5,000 over the poverty line for a family of four, according to US data.

There are three — maybe four, options, of course. Raise wages. Automate. Try waiting until people are really desperate. Or wait until the anti-immigration law is perhaps shot down by the US government and go back to hiring illegals.

Only two of these fit in a moral society (or are a right thing to do).

2 Comments

  1. Christoph Hechl said,

    October 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    OK, i am being cynical here, but wouldn’t it be hilarious if the Alabama farmers would be forced to produce BIO-tomatoes because they can’t afford the lawsuits they get for poisoning their american workers?
    On the other hand it might be a little too progressive to exit the system of slave labor just yet. I bet some brain-dead speech-bubble will pop up and propose to force unemployed people to work in the fields, which will of course be terribly patriotic. At least this is how Mao Tse-Tung solved the problem several decades ago.

  2. George Smith said,

    October 21, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I bet some brain-dead speech-bubble will pop up and propose to force unemployed people to work in the fields, which will of course be terribly patriotic. At least this is how Mao Tse-Tung solved the problem several decades ago.

    It’s already happened.There has already been suggestions to use prison labor. And , in one state — Georgia — they’ve tried using paroled criminals as substitutes, without much success. You still can’t keep them from walking off the job.

    One of the defense contractors, Lockheed, subcontracts to a private company using prison labor to build parts for the Patriot missile.

    I’d say one entire political party would support using prison labor if it thought it could get away with it universally.