$20 More for Farmworkers


My wife has a long history of working with migrant farmworkers., and I often say I have a second-hand education in farm labor issues through her work.  Migrant farmworkers receive among the lowest pay in America for some of the most challenging labor available.

Migrant agricultural workers, it is safe to say, are primarily undocumented workers, although some workers arrive through temporary work authorizations.  In either case, the work is hard, and the pay is minimal.

The growers that own and operate the farms claim that Americans will not do farm work, although they fail to mention that low pay is a significant barrier to American workers entering the farm labor force.  Compensation for agricultural work is below a reasonable living wage for families.  Farmworkers often live in rustic conditions unsuitable for families.  The bulk of migrant labor consists of young, unattached men who are willing to work hard and suffer the indignities of that work.

Farmers also claim that Americans will not pay more for food, and with farmers operating on very slim margins they cannot consider raising wages.

I question those claims.  I believe that Americans would work in agriculture if compensation were commensurate with the difficulty of the work, and I also contend that American consumers would pay more for their food purchases if they had some understanding of what that meant for farmworkers.

My optimism is based on what I have seen happen in my town, where local farmers are supported and celebrated.  I am happy to purchase from local farmers through our the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and Weaver Street Market, a local grocery cooperative.  It costs more to do this, but I do not understand the logic of paying cheap prices for the most important health item we buy – food.  While I have not personally analyzed the numbers for my family’s grocery purchases, National Geographic published an article estimating that the added cost for most families would be about $20 per year.  The article is food for thought.

What do you think?  Would you pay $20 more per year if it meant farmworkers received better pay?  Would it make a difference if you knew that more Americans might work on farms, instead of foreign labor?

 

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Snow Daze


Our local school system is notorious for closing at the slightest hint of snow.  If you are reading this in Minnesota or some other achingly cold place, you will surely laugh.  We have had to scramble to take care of our daughter at home for less than an inch of snow.  A mere dusting.

But yesterday was different.  Meteorologists predicted two or three inches of the fluffy white stuff.  Instead, we have nine to eleven inches.  For Central North Carolina, this is incredible.  My daughter, like me averse to cold weather, stayed inside and enjoyed watching it fall as we built a LEGO model together, and drank hot chocolate.

And all was well with the world.

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Shitholes? Really?


In a remarkable about-face, after many news reports and first-hand accounts alleging that President Trump referred to African countries and Haiti as “shitholes,” Mr. Trump announced that it was all more fake news, that he never said what was reported.  Trump is reported to have uttered these vulgarities within a discussion of who should be allowed to legally migrate to the United States, Trump expressing a preference for people from Norway.

The fact that more than 80% of ethnic Norwegians are white, whereas the countries Trump disparaged have largely black or brown populations is naturally a cause for outrage, another self-inflicted would for Trump.  And, despite the media maelstrom and the ping-ponged accusations from both sides of the political divide, Trump’s alleged statement is entirely consistent with a long public record of unfavorable bias against people of color.

A reporter from a conservative outlet defended Trump’s language by pointing out that this is the language that ordinary Americans, specifically Trump’s base, would use to describe these countries.  That is if he said it – and he said he didn’t – it would be ok because he was speaking the language of the “forgotten man.”

I wasn’t in the room.  I did not hear what was said. Maybe Trump barked profanely (probability high), or he didn’t (probability low), or he said some variant of the same language (probably medium).  In any case, this is language that should not cross a U.S. President’s lips within earshot of public officials or the media.  Many of the disparaged countries are swimming with AK-47 rifles, the leftover’s from long forgotten Cold War conflicts.  All it would take is one enraged foreigner to answer Trump’s alleged words with a volley of gunfire in a tourist hotel to demonstrate the danger of this kind of disparaging rhetoric.

If you want to call Haiti or all of Africa a “shithole” in your local pub, I will disagree, but I will support your right to free speech. If you want to say the same thing from the Oval Office, you still have a right to say it, but be prepared for consequences, from other countries and the electorate writ large.  It plays to Trump’s base, but he now is the servant of We the People.

Or maybe that is Trump’s aim, to rile up his base and anger other countries. The lesson learned from George W. Bush is that terrorist attack is an opportunity to bring up poll numbers, and it seems that Trump could use a bump in popularity.  Is that hypothesis too cynical?

Thoughts?  I’d love to hear your (moderated) comments.

Photo By David Shankbone (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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