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Crops still don't pick themselves
October 9, 2011 6:40 PM   Subscribe

We discussed the impact of Georgia's immigration law previously. Apparently their neighboring state Alabama decided they needed one even tougher. The impact on businesses mirrored what happened in Georgia. Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is challenging the law. Some estimates on the economic impact.
posted by Runes (32 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope that when these proud, Red, states send their representatives with their hats in hand to beg and cry for federal relief, that they get mocked relentlessly.
posted by Renoroc at 6:45 PM on October 9, 2011 [17 favorites]


Would that were the case, but Texas was chest-beating about seceding and then the wildfires hit and they were bloo bloo blooing about the federal government not responding fast enough.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:07 PM on October 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Shameful, shameful law from my home state of Alabama. And considering the historical injustices that the state is still pretty much synonymous with (in the national collective memory), it's doubly tragic.

Here's something worth reading: Letter to Birmingham
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:17 PM on October 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Please list which laws I can safely break, and why.
posted by TSOL at 7:52 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


On behalf of California Agriculture, I wholeheartedly support these other states' efforts to decimate their local farms.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Please list which laws I can safely break, and why.

I think it would be a good idea to list the laws that can be broken despite causing no harm to person or property. Extra credit for listing laws that can be broken while simultaneously supporting economic prosperity.

Somewhat related:
Mr. Harold, a 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran who drifted here in the late ’60s, has participated for about a decade in a federal program called H-2A that allows seasonal foreign workers into the country to make up the gap where willing and able American workers are few in number. He typically has brought in about 90 people from Mexico each year from July through October.

This year, though, with tough times lingering and a big jump in the minimum wage under the program, to nearly $10.50 an hour, Mr. Harold brought in only two-thirds of his usual contingent. The other positions, he figured, would be snapped up by jobless local residents wanting some extra summer cash.

“It didn’t take me six hours to realize I’d made a heck of a mistake,” Mr. Harold said, standing in his onion field on a recent afternoon as a crew of workers from Mexico cut the tops off yellow onions and bagged them.

Six hours was enough, between the 6 a.m. start time and noon lunch break, for the first wave of local workers to quit. Some simply never came back and gave no reason. Twenty-five of them said specifically, according to farm records, that the work was too hard.
In GA, we found that parolees are not the best candidates for field labor. In CO, an honest farmer realizes economic realities behind immigrant labor.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:00 PM on October 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Illegal farm workers get treated like crap, often live in terrible hovels you wouldn't put a dog in* and are sprayed with pesticides and god knows what else and when the police come the employers put their hands in the air and say "oh, I didn't know they were illegal". I don't agree with this law but yeah, Americans won't take these jobs (not unless things get a lot worse) and the solution is not to quietly go back to exploiting people who are too afraid to complain.

*I have seen many, many of the old mobile homes and trailers that farm workers in CA live in and they are appalling. Moldy, asbestos ridden, rotting pieces of junk. And the farmers want a pat on the back for providing housing, even the ones I know well who are otherwise decent people. It's a pervasive attitude in the industry. Farmers generally have enormous respect for the seasonal workers and their work ethic and will hire them preferentially over locals, but they still treat them as cheaply as they possibly can. And this includes organic farms, local foodie, high end specialty farms and all kinds of agri-business. Even if you buy unicorn cheese and it says right on the package that it was made by elves and approved by their union, you can rest assured there was an illegal immigrant involved somehow.
posted by fshgrl at 8:03 PM on October 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


Americans won't take these jobs (not unless things get a lot worse)

...or pay gets a LOT better. I bet if they upped the ante to 20-25/hr with medical they'd have Americans fighting over those jobs. But the growers won't do that, because they know people expect to go to Walmart and buy shitty flavorless tomatoes for a buck a pound.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:12 PM on October 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've said this here before, but I have ZERO sympathy for the growers. They built their business model on the ready availability of a labor pool that bordered on slavery. Now that it's not there any more, they're crying in their cornflakes. Fuck every last one of them. It just disgusts me that our immigration enforcement focuses on Latino illegal immigrants, and not their American illegal employers.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:14 PM on October 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Can't we just sell the south off to China or something?
posted by bardic at 9:32 PM on October 9, 2011


NO SHIT SHERLOCK
posted by monkeymike at 10:05 PM on October 9, 2011


...or pay gets a LOT better. I bet if they upped the ante to 20-25/hr with medical they'd have Americans fighting over those jobs. But the growers won't do that, because they know people expect to go to Walmart and buy shitty flavorless tomatoes for a buck a pound.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:12 PM on October 9
You're forgetting the flip side - if labor costs increase three- or four-fold like that, the prices of goods will increase, too, pricing food out of the hands of the poorest. It's unfortunately not as simple as "give them all raises and the labor will come".
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:07 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


On behalf of California Agriculture, I wholeheartedly support these other states' efforts to decimate their local farms.

On behalf of hungry, broke ass people everywhere, I condemn these short-sighted, political grandstanders for adopting such a draconian law.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:33 PM on October 9, 2011


Regarding the federal judge who recently upheld much of the Alabama immigration law, I was amused by what she declined to uphold:
Blackburn did block a measure that sought to bar harboring, transporting, encouraging or renting to illegal immigrants. [...]

She also blocked parts of the law barring illegal immigrants from seeking work, and she blocked the creation of a new traffic penalty for motorists who stop in the roadway to hire day laborers. [...]

[She also stopped] a measure that sought to take away tax benefits for employers who paid salaries to illegal immigrants, and she struck down a provision allowing sanctions against employers who had illegal immigrants on their payroll rather than hiring Americans or legal immigrants.
There may be a more reasonable legalistic grounding for this, but it does seem emblematic of the times that a judge would uphold a draconian immigration law while making a point of striking down all the parts that would punish businesses for perpetuating the problem.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:46 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


They built their business model on the ready availability of a labor pool that bordered on slavery.

It's also a business model built upon the ready availability of buyers who want unblemished hand-picked product delivered within three seconds of peak ripeness, and the ready availability of supermarket customers who have grown accustomed to pristine produce and meat sealed on styrofoam. Complicity in that economic arrangement goes right the way to the dinner table.

Harvest ain't U-Pick. The skills and endurance to work a modern harvest where the fields are large and the window of ripeness is short are several leagues above those in previous generations who worked hard to bring it in but did other work the rest of the year. It's a league above the European And 'traditional', labour-intensive agriculture is pretty crap to begin with, even for the farmers who treat their workers like crap: the money is in industrial ag.
posted by holgate at 11:02 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


On behalf of hungry, broke ass people everywhere, I condemn these short-sighted, political grandstanders for adopting such a draconian law.

You can always get a job picking tomatoes. I heard they're short in Georgia...
posted by fshgrl at 12:01 AM on October 10, 2011


The "illegals" are the poor, working-class people of [mostly] Mexico, who come to the U.S. regardless of our indignation because we pay them to be here. Until we stop paying them to be here, they'll keep coming.

As for the sanctity of our laws - "tell me which laws I can break" and so on - you can break any goddamn law you wish, like selling dope or speeding or embezzling money, and there is a small chance you will be caught but millions of people take that risk every day.

When the giant vacuum force of the market stops sucking Mexican labor into the U.S., then the migrants will stop coming. Then, I suppose, Americans may be desperate enough to take jobs in the industrial farms that dominate food production. We have globalized labor and we have made cheap food our birthright, and then we have made the poorest and least powerful the target of our ire.
posted by blueberry sushi at 5:25 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bet if they upped the ante to 20-25/hr with medical they'd have Americans fighting over those jobs.

$20-25???? They wouldn't have to raise it that high. They could pay $12/hr and probably have no shortage of native workers lining-up. That would still be at least double what the immigrant laborers get, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Be sure to budget for the trade war you need now that American produce is uncompetitive.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:33 AM on October 10, 2011


Zan Green, a tea party activist in metro Birmingham, said she was happy with the decision, saying citizens of foreign countries have benefited for years through welfare, entitlements, education, medical care and child tax credits.

I guess the Koch brothers don't use immigrant labor.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:19 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Been watching some of these reports on local Atlanta news stations and it's darkly amusing watching them interview the farmers who just sort of shrug sadly and stop even bothering to put on a facade. One guy even just flat out said "welp, yeah. Ah mean erryone knows we all gotta use the illegals to do all this." It is fascinating to watch them almost get it right before our eyes in real-time, as if they previously thought that an army of Americans desperate to earn $8/hour picking crops in the hot sun and/or government-issued crop-picking robots were just waiting at the fences of their fields off in the horizon.

What I find even more fascinating is that they seem to have no desire to come up with their own solution... they just want the illegal immigrants back. Watching the reports I had these visions in my head about what it would have been like if cable news existed during the time of Reconstruction. There probably would have been daily reports from southern farmers complaining how the sudden requirement to pay and not beat the Negroes to death would make their entire business model impossible.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:02 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I find even more fascinating is that they seem to have no desire to come up with their own solution... they just want the illegal immigrants back.

Illegal immigrants want to be the solution. In fact, they're ideally suited to be the solution. The problem is that the state government is beholden to the rubes who knowingly or not are willing to cut off the nose to spite the face.

$20-25???? They wouldn't have to raise it that high. They could pay $12/hr and probably have no shortage of native workers lining-up. That would still be at least double what the immigrant laborers get, though.

Illegal immigrant laborers sometimes make significantly more than $12/hr. But to earn that much, they have to be productive. We learned this in the case of the GA crackdown. And again, the proposed replacements were neither used to hard labor nor productivity. The losses from immigration crackdowns are not only to American farmers, but to the laborers who are forbidden from doing a job they're willing and able to do. This is a losing deal for everyone involved. The farmers. The migrant workers. The economy as a whole.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:32 AM on October 10, 2011


You're forgetting the flip side - if labor costs increase three- or four-fold like that, the prices of goods will increase, too, pricing food out of the hands of the poorest. It's unfortunately not as simple as "give them all raises and the labor will come".


I disagree and think it is that simple. American jobs should go to legal American citizens, as simple as that.
posted by amazingstill at 7:32 AM on October 10, 2011


I disagree and think it is that simple.

But... you're wrong. It isn't that simple.

It's almost never *that* simple.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah, that attitude always gets me, as if Americans are just lining up only to be turned away from the jobs that immigrants (both legal and illegal) have stolen. Americans don't want to be fruit pickers or taxi drivers or hotel cleaners or what have you. But they do want goods and services to remain cheap.

When I was thirteen I spent the summer working on my cousin's farm. It was really really fucking hard work. It may have been the best job I ever had in that it taught me a lot about the kind of work I didn't want to do as an adult. And it wasn't even as physically laborious as picking is.
posted by 6550 at 9:53 AM on October 10, 2011


americans probably would be more willing to do [shit job done by immigrants] if [shit job industry] were not predicated on being able to egregiously violate the labor rights of the people working [shit job].
posted by beefetish at 9:59 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


They could pay $12/hr and probably have no shortage of native workers lining-up.

Seasonal workers make far more than $6/hr. Absolute minimum imho would be $10, for totally unskilled work, probably with housing provided. Skilled workers make more and there is enough demand they can negotiate.
posted by fshgrl at 11:00 AM on October 10, 2011


@Renoroc: check out the level of federal subsidies our farmers get already. Our representatives long ago became immune to shaming on this topic...

@amazingstill: American jobs should go to legal American citizens, as simple as that.

That's nice, and I frankly don't disagree, but unless you're willing to actually read the article and what other posters say then you really aren't in any position to debate. In particular, as pointed out both in the article and by other posters, there is, in fact, far broader implications to "legals only" than you apparently are willing to admit or understand. You might be fine with "fuck the implications, full dogma ahead, damn the collateral damage", but there's a lot of us out here who are looking for a solution to the problem that actually addresses the negative impact on the economy, and understand that an already fragile economy will not react well to the lessons learned in Georgia writ large. Unfortunately, that solution is unlikely to be able to fit into nice, short, trite slogans.
posted by kjs3 at 11:20 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alabama Law Makes It A Felony For Undocumented Immigrants To Have Water At Their Homes
posted by homunculus at 11:38 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "farmers can't find workers to pick their crops" argument has always been really stuipd. The basic economic answer is to raise wages until you can tempt people to take the jobs. Would people be willing to do it for $20/hr? $30? $40? At some point you would find people willing to do the work.
You're forgetting the flip side - if labor costs increase three- or four-fold like that, the prices of goods will increase, too, pricing food out of the hands of the poorest. It's unfortunately not as simple as "give them all raises and the labor will come".
Base foods like corn and soybeans are all done with machines. It's fruits and stuff that actually needs to get picked that requires labor. So high-fructose corn syrup and other corn products will stay cheap.

Anyway, here's the thing: should pay prices that allow for decent wages. And other therng is that I don't think labour costs make up that much
Americans don't want to be fruit pickers or taxi drivers or hotel cleaners or what have you. But they do want goods and services to remain cheap.
They would be more then happy to take those jobs if the income was commisurate with the effort/stress/risk/whatever. They're not. Pay more and people will do it. Americans don't want to do those jobs at those wages.

And actually with the economic downturn, I'm sure there are (unfortunately) lots of americans who would be willing to take the jobs, although they would probably not be very good at it to begin with.

---

If federal lawmakers are unhappy with this the solution is simple: Refuse to share immigration status information with stats that are uncooperative.
posted by delmoi at 2:03 PM on October 10, 2011


Americans don't want to do those jobs at those wages.

I don't think that's a sufficient qualifier. To do those jobs at that kind of productivity requires tolerance both of the conditions at work, and of the migratory lifestyle that's required. That's a job market for people who, in common parlance, are known as "drifters", who follow the harvests, take work where it's available, and have little that's persistent in their lives. Say what you like about production lines, but the 20th century factory provided a greater opportunity to raise a family in a stable environment.

On the other side of the equation, is there going to be a sufficient consumer demand for foodstuffs picked by people paid $20/hr, when alternatives from cheaper markets present themselves courtesy of refrigerated shipping?
posted by holgate at 6:40 PM on October 10, 2011


Lost in Detention: Inside the secretive world of immigration detention centers and the Obama administration's controversial get-tough immigration policy.
posted by homunculus at 9:10 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


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