Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Apple Pickers of the Yakima Valley: A photo essay

More excellent photographs from David Bacon (we used his work for the covers of both editions of our book). But the analysis is also important. Bacon shows that, at least in Washington state, growers are switching from the exploitation of immigrant workers to the exploitation of guest workers. “Growers are increasingly recruiting Mexican workers to come to the U.S. on H-2A visas,” he writes. “….In 2006, Washington growers brought in 814 workers on H-2A visas, mostly to pick apples. Last year they brought in 13,641—about a quarter of the state’s farm labor force that year.”—TPOI editor

Farmworkers march on May 1. Photo: The Atlantic/David Bacon

By David Bacon, The Atlantic
June 22, 2017
Even after having worked as a farmworker for a few years, Eva Chavez still had trouble coping with how exhausted she was after a day of picking apples. “I’d barely make it home because I was so tired,” she remembers. “I’d just park the car outside my house and sleep in the car. I didn’t even want to go inside.”

She saw her fellow farmworkers get similarly worn down. She said she worried when she saw someone in charge of a job distribute pain pills and Coca-Cola. Some of her friends drank cans of Red Bull or Monster Energy so often that if they stopped, they got sleepy and lost their motivation to work. “We put our lives out there in the fields for a job that will never give our health back,” says Chavez. Another farmworker I talked to, who once picked tobacco on a farm in Kentucky, said that the exposure to the nicotine in the leaves left him with a sensation “like a hangover multiplied by 10.”[…]

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