A produce grower called me from New York state this afternoon and directed my attention to an editorial that ran in the Times Union out of Albany.
The grower was pretty upset and after reading the editorial I can see why. The line may once again be blurred between the experiences on the farm for an undocumented worker and an H2A guestworker. Let’s remember there is quite a difference.
An excerpt from the The fair fields of New York,
“The bill would set an eight-hour day for agricultural workers and require farms to pay overtime for hours that exceed the limit. It would also give employees one day of rest a week during harvest season, allow them to form unions and entitle them to workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits. Farms that hire five or more migrant workers would have to follow some basic health regulations covering the conditions in which their laborers live and work.”
Many of the terms that the writer implies are denied or not provided are in fact very much in place for H2A guestworkers now, the benefits include but are not limited to;
Required workers compensation, unemployment benefits and anything over 5 hours on Saturday is entirely voluntary and no one is required to work on their Sabbath. Also all agricultural employers who participate in the H2A program have to get their worker housing inspected and approved annually before they can participate in the federal guestworker program. It’s also important to note that the grower that called me pays her H2A guestworkers $9.70 per hour, that’s the wage that the USDOL set for that occupation in their area. USDOL has published the possible wage for the 2010 season and it is $10.23 an hour across the board in NY state for H2A workers. The wage and benefit package for H2A workers doesn’t end there.
So I guess the author of the editorial is right, the farming industry and the consumer will just have to suck it up or go home like they did in California–cause thats working out so great for them and all.
My advice for the author of Fair fields–better get your little raised bed vegetable garden growing soon. Farming in this country may be on it’s way out.
Is that too extreme?