Center for Sustainable Systems
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Phone: (606) 986-5336; Fax: (606) 986-1299
> -----Original Message-----
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On
> Behalf Of Pat Elazar
> Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 1998 7:05 PM
> To: Jane Sooby
> Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: re: migrant labor
> Joel Gruver from Maryland asked the following:
> >Today, I read that 42% of the agricultural laborers in California between
> >1995 and 1997 were illegal aliens.
> >I am wondering if anyone can comment on what sort of structural changes
> >would be necessary for California to meet its agricultural
> >labor needs using legal laborers ?
> Jane Sooby responded:
> >California agriculture relies on migrant, illegal workers. There is no
> >question about meeting the labor requirement with "legal"
> labor--big ag is
> >dependent upon inexpensive labor provided by the migrant work force. This
> >why California's recent referendum denying health care to illegal aliens
> >struck me as so incredibly hypocritical: the California economy benefits
> >greatly from this labor pool yet simultaneously the public wants to deny
> >workers even emergency medical treatment and to throw their children out
> The California economy may indeed benefit greatly from the presence of
> migrant workers, but it is taxpayers (the public) who must pay for the
> services that those workers & their families require. I'm not from
> California or even a yank, but it seems to me that there is a revolt
> against those rightly or wrongly percieved as "free riders". That is,
> enjoying the services yet not paying for them.
> >A relative of mine sells seed in the delta region of the San Joaquin
> >He told me that when INS agents are spotted by one farmer, they call the
> >others in the neighborhood so that the illegals can be hidden before INS
> Their behaviour is rational from their own point of view: Growers want
> continued access to that pool of labour candidates for themselves & for
> their neighbours; Mexicans will swim the border as long as the reward for
> illegal day labour in Ca exceeds the pay of an unskilled labourer
> in Oaxaca
> or some other remote Mx province... Their behaviour differs little from
> that of Irish, Italian & Jewish immigrants in the previous century.
> >To whom would it be desirable that the California ag labor pool be legal?
> Public policy can sometimes level the playing field & at least give access
> to social services to legalised workers, provide (minimal) labour
> conditions & require them to pay taxes like everyone else...
> >One further observation: at a workshop on sugarbeet production here in
> >Nebraska a year ago, one of the stated goals of the researchers was to
> >eradicate the need for manual labor. How do they do this? By substituting
> >chemicals. Who does this affect? Though the subtext of this agenda could
> >never be addressed at a production meeting, this "goal" is code
> for "Let's
> >get rid of the migrant workers." I'm not so sure researchers are
> >to make this decision.
> I'm not arguing the morality here, but growers will substitute alternative
> technologies (man-power; horse-power; chemical-power) until the lowest
> production cost matrix is achieved regardless of what we think. That is,
> people with hoes will employed as long as they are cheaper than a bag of
> chemical. The chemical will be employed as long as it is cheaper than a
> mechanical device etc... Sometimes we may be able to lessen the pain &
> internalise some of the externalised costs.
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