Immigrant farm workers' challenge: Take our jobs
By JULIANA BARBASSA, Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO – In a tongue-in-cheek call for immigration reform, farm workers are teaming up with comedian Stephen Colbert to challenge unemployed Americans: Come on, take our jobs.
Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy, said Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers of America.
So the group is encouraging the unemployed — and any Washington pundits or anti-immigrant activists who want to join them — to apply for the some of thousands of agricultural jobs being posted with state agencies as harvest season begins.
All applicants need to do is fill out an online form under the banner "I want to be a farm worker" at Take Our Jobs, and experienced field hands will train them and connect them to farms.
According to the Labor Department, three out of four farm workers were born abroad, and more than half are illegal immigrants.
Proponents of tougher immigration laws have argued that farmers have become used to cheap labor and don't want to raise wages enough to draw in other workers.
Those who have done the job have some words of advice for applicants: First, dress appropriately.
During summer, when the harvest of fruits and vegetables is in full swing in California's Central Valley, temperatures hover in the triple digits. Heat exhaustion is one of the reasons farm labor consistently makes the Bureau of Labor Statistics' top ten list of the nation's most dangerous jobs.
Second, expect long days. Growers have a small window to pick fruit before it is overripe.
And don't count on a big paycheck. Farm workers are excluded from federal overtime provisions, and small farms don't even have to pay the minimum wage. Fifteen states don't require farm labor to be covered by workers compensation laws.
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