Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thousands of Farmworkers in California Can't Make a Living

By David Bacon, New America Media
June 2, 2015

Editor's note: California farmworkers once made a decent living but according to NAM contributing writer, David Bacon, those days are long gone. Now the majority is struggling to survive. More than a third of the farmworkers population makes less than the minimum wage, while the other third earns the exact minimum. Many suffer from various health issues as the result of years of backbreaking work. Undocumented farm laborers find movement back and forth across the militarized border far more dangerous and expensive than before, and many are stuck even when picking season has ended. In a three parts series, Bacon gives his analysis of the situation and provides two moving portraits of struggling Triqui farmworkers. Bacon’s analysis is below.

At the end of the 1970s California farm workers were the highest-paid in the U.S., with the possible exception of Hawaii's long-unionized sugar and pineapple workers. Today their economic situation is not much different from that of their coworkers elsewhere around the country. California's agricultural laborers are trapped in jobs that pay the minimum wage and often less, and are mostly unable to find permanent year-round work.

The decline in income is apparent in three ways. The minimum wage is the current wage standard for most farm workers. They receive a tiny percentage of the retail price of the crops they produce. And their living conditions reflect incomes that are at the bottom of the U.S. wage scale.[...]

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