Saturday, September 25, 2010
Migrant workers, the slaves of the 20th + 21st century
Hey it's caturday what'd you expect farm cat to be working.
In digging into the issue of migrant farm workers I find that they are treated worse than the slaves of the civil war era. How can that be you might ask? This is the 21st century. But according to historical documents based on interviews taken from the slaves themselves this appears to be true.
According to Genovese, slaves were fed, clothed, housed and provided medical care in a minimal manner. It was common for masters to pay slaves small bonuses at Christmas, and some slave owners permitted their slaves to keep earnings and gambling profits.
Today farm workers salaries average $7500 per year. That's not even enough to rent a place. Many sleep in tents or share a trailer packed in with several other coworkers because most farms don't provide shelter. A migrant worker works 60 to 80 hours with no overtime pay. In addition to long hours in the hot sun, most of their work is from April to November, workers are exposed to pesticides and herbicides. Imagine working crouched over even 10 hours a day six or seven days a week. And workers aren't covered by Labor and Industries laws. Is it any wonder that farm owners hire illegals and pay them even less than the going rates and who are they going to complain to anyway?
But the real kicker in all of this was when I heard the senator (rethuglican) complain that these workers get unemployment in his state. He said they can get up to $360 a week and that that was putting a drain on his state. I've got news for that senator at an average salary of $7500 that works out to less than $200 a week and unemployment only pays 80% of that. I'd like to see him try to live on that.
(A slight aside) A while back I was watching a documentary about where our tuna comes from and the working conditions of those people. I'm not talking about Deadliest Catch either where those Alaska fishermen haul in tons of fish and get a percentage of the catch. In asian waters its a different story. This is where all of your canned tuna comes from. It worked out to about $3 a day for the worker which was about enough to buy food for yourself, no shelter nothing else.
And what people fail to realize are the hidden costs when the worker must use the local hospital and can't pay the bill. But haven't we seen all this before with the way Wal Mart does business? So it makes you wonder what it would really cost to give a livable wage, an extra 5 or 10 cents a pound?