Are Americans fat and lazy, or do the farms hiring undocumented farm workers bring down the pay and working conditions?
via Modern Farmer
I’ve seen on the news that some Congress members or American citizens say undocumented workers are taking their jobs. We’re not taking their jobs. In the 14 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen an American working in the fields. I’ve never seen anyone work like Mexicans. In restaurants and construction, you’ll find Salvadorans and Guatemalans, but in the fields, it’s almost all Mexicans.
The work is hard — but many jobs are hard. The thing that bothers me more is the low pay. With cherries, you earn $7 for each box, and I’ll fill 30 boxes in a day — about $210 a day. For blueberries, I’ll do 25 containers for up to $5 each one — $125 a day. With grapes, you make 30 cents for each carton, and I can do 400 cartons a day – $120 a day. Tomatoes are the worst paid: I’ll pick 100 for 62 cents a bucket, or about $62 a day. I don’t do tomatoes much anymore. It’s heavy work, you have to bend over, run to turn in your baskets, and your back hurts. I say I like tomatoes — in a salad. Ha. With a lot of the crops, the bosses keep track of your haul by giving you a card, and punching it every time you turn in a basket.
I wish they would be more considerate of what we’re doing with the pay rate. They’re a little cheap: 31 cents for a carton of grapes. I would like another two or three cents a carton, because it’s really hard and heavy work. I’ve never worked a union contract job — a lot of them are in tomatoes or oranges — but if anyone doesn’t want to pay you, the United Farm Workers of America where I’m a volunteer, will help you get paid.
I’m very fast. In jobs where you’re doing delicate things, like pruning plants, they don’t want you rushing, so they pay you by the hour. But harvest jobs are usually paid by the quantity you pick. I prefer it that way — you have to run, but you can get home faster. We get there at 6:00 in the morning and, if I rush, I take a break at 1:00, drink and eat something, then work for another hour and head home. You pick the amount of hours you want to work, and you try not to take a lot of breaks so you can earn more. Some people will go until 5:00 in the afternoon and want to work and work, but I have my kids.