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Man, I hate being right [Aug. 5th, 2011|10:26 am]
Hey, remember back a few months ago when I argued that all the big talk/big action for throwing undocumented aliens out of the country was actually going to cost the US money and that we were very dependent on those workers? Particularly that the loss of itinerant undocumented farm workers was going to hurt us?

And remember how some people argued that I was wrong, and they knew plenty of people who would be glad to work harvesting crops if only they were given a chance, but that those rotten undocumented workers were stealing all those jobs?

Well, folks, the proof is right in front of us all, in the form of that great social experiment we call the great state of Georgia. Georgian legislators came down hard on undocumented workers, and patted themselves on the back for their toughness.

And now? Georgia's crops are rotting in the fields because Americans won't do these jobs.

Yes, that's right. Despite 14% unemployment, no one is applying for those harvesting jobs. The few who do almost all quit because the work is backbreaking 12-14 hour days in the unrelenting heat. So millions of dollars of fruits and vegetables are just rotting in the fields.

But hey, it's okay because we can feel smug about getting rid of all those dirty Mexicans undocumented aliens.

You won't hear about this on Fox News, I'm willing to bet, because it doesn't fit in their jingoistic worldview. But it's out there, and it's a problem. And simple solutions like banning all undocumented workers are exactly as harmful as predicted.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/781681.html?mode=reply:

[User Picture]From: the_siobhan
2011-08-05 03:21 pm (UTC)
Oh I'm sure you could find people to do the work if you just paid them enough to make it worth their while. But then you'd be paying $20/lb for tomatoes.

(I picked strawberries for extra cash once while when I was welfare. I made something like $6 a day.)
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[User Picture]From: sacramentalist
2011-08-05 03:32 pm (UTC)
It is sad that the takeaway from this is a fair minimum wage and benefits for farm workers is not economically viable.

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[User Picture]From: redstapler
2011-08-05 03:31 pm (UTC)

why did I do that?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 03:47 pm (UTC)
I didn't. Now I'm caught between curiosity and dread.
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From: anonymousalex
2011-08-05 03:50 pm (UTC)
Really? You hate being right? I mean, it's a bad situation, and you may dislike that it is true, but the facts are the facts independent of whether you're right about them. All other things being equal, isn't it better to be right?

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 04:09 pm (UTC)
No, it would be better if I'd been wrong and there had been farm workers available and it had all been perfect. I would rather have been wrong that going into Iraq was a terrible idea, too.
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[User Picture]From: docstrange
2011-08-05 04:21 pm (UTC)
Alternatively, pulling under-compensated, low-skill labor from a back-breaking, manual task will now see farmers forced to invest in the technology to do the work without that kind of low-level labor. Don't say it can't be done. They said that about cotton. And though they are saying it about hard-to-harvest items like lettuce now, I've talked with CA lettuce farmers who privately say the only thing holding them back from the - existing, expensive - technology investment is that their competitors are using under-wage labor and so investing isn't competitive.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 06:58 pm (UTC)
True; we have built an economy around mistreating a lot of people.
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2011-08-05 04:32 pm (UTC)
I am sad to say that I am hardly surprised. Many people do want a job.. but they want a happy cushy job sitting in a chair in an air-conditioned building. Well. I overstate. Most people want income, but would prefer not to work quite so hard for it.

The good news is the rotting produce will make excellent compost for next year's crops.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 07:00 pm (UTC)
Most people aren't physically strong enough to do it, honestly.
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[User Picture]From: cinema_babe
2011-08-05 04:44 pm (UTC)
IIRC I think they tried to get unemployed people and folks who had community service components to their misdemeanor convictions and both sets of people threw in the towel becasue it was too hat, dirty and (literally) back breaking.

All of a sudden that "the do the jobs Americans don't want to do" is looking a good bit less wacky. It's not that Americans want "cushy jobs" necessarily, it's that these jobs are shitty beyond shitty don't have some of the basics things we take for granted like adequate facilities we take for granted like real bathrooms or water fountains or a level of pay at least equal to the Fry Guy at McDonalds (because IIRC, there is not minimum wage for farm workers).

And yeah, I called this too as soon as I heard about what Georgia had planned.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 07:03 pm (UTC)
I agree with the notion that cheap labor allows farmers to not invest in new technology. But most farmers are barely staying above water as it is. There is very little margin. New investment means our food costs go way up.
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[User Picture]From: jarodrussell
2011-08-05 04:52 pm (UTC)
How do unemployment benefits factor into this? If someone goes and does this, makes a bit of scratch above board, does it impact their benefits? If someone is still receiving unemployment benefits, do they even need to do this?

Mind you, I'm not pro-kick'em-all-out...I'm pro-streamline-the-system-and-grow-the-tax-base...but I do have have some reservations about a quasi-class system that provides workers for labor intensive tasks only because they lack the paperwork to get the same benefits as actual citizens.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 07:08 pm (UTC)
Many immigrant farm workers are migratory--they're here in the summer and return to Mexico for the rest of the year because their families and homes are in Mexico. The whole "they're ruining our schools/cities" obfuscates any real discussion of the genuine issues.
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[User Picture]From: stripedsocks
2011-08-05 06:10 pm (UTC)
This makes me sad as it was entirely predictable yet they let their prejudices stand in the way of common sense. And it will be us who pay the cost in the form of higher food costs.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 07:09 pm (UTC)
But that will be Obama's fault. Somehow.
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[User Picture]From: lady_kathana
2011-08-05 07:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was recently unemployed in Georgia and I was furious when Deal told me to go pick fruit. I have a college degree and I'm a certified science teacher, with most of the credits needed for a Master's in Special Education. With all the money I've invested in my education, I'm not picking fruit. If I hadn't found a teaching position for this year, I'd be looking at moving out of state to a place with more teaching jobs.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 07:54 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you found work.
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2011-08-05 08:18 pm (UTC)
If we're worried about cheap food, it's funny that we subsidize the production of crops that don't require massive amounts of manual labor (wheat, corn) but that we don't subsidize the ones that do (most fruits and vegetables), especially considering that fruits & vegis are usually healthier.

As for me, one day of tossing 60 pounds hay bales in 95 degree heat was more than enough to convince me to get an office job. That was actually a pretty good job, pay-wise; IIRC I made nearly double minimum wage. That's also when I was 17 and still had two good knees, two good ankles and an undamaged back.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 08:59 pm (UTC)
That's because those crops are grown in huge swathes by huge companies that have huge lobbying efforts.

Yeah, a day of picking strawberries did the same for me. And I made shit money, so it was a very easy decision.
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[User Picture]From: fitfool
2011-08-06 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised the jobs pay $8-12/hour. I had assumed they paid only minimum wage. Someone else had also told me that farming depended on undocumented workers to keep prices so low. Otherwise, prices would have to go up. I wonder what direction they'll go in next? Figure out a way to harvest more efficiently? Raise prices so we they can raise wages? Or change the laws (or change enforcement) so they can bring back those undocumented workers?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-07 01:36 am (UTC)
That is the low wage that they pay--and for which USCs won't work. Something will have to change.
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