Farm workers: Take our jobs, please!

migrant_workers_ji.top.jpgMost farm workers in the U.S. are illegal immigrants, but a union representing these workers has offered their jobs to Americans. By Aaron Smith, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Facing growing anti-immigrant rhetoric, the United Farm Workers union is challenging Americans to take their labor-intensive, low-paying farm jobs.

As communities nationwide grapple with tenacious unemployment, migrant workers are often accused of stealing jobs from Americans. The union believes this accusation is without basis, and intends to demonstrate this with a newly-launched campaign called "Take Our Jobs."

When do you see job growth returning?
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • Over a year
  • Not sure

"Farm workers do the work that most Americans are not willing to do," said union president Arturo Rodriguez in the announcement of the campaign.

At least half a million applicants are needed to replace the immigrant workforce, so the union has posted an online application for Americans who want to work on a farm.

Through its Web site, at www.takeourjobs.org, the union promises to connect applicants with farm jobs in their area.

Since June 24, at least 4,000 people have responded to the application, said Rodriguez. Some are serious responses and others are hate mail. "Only a few dozen have really followed through with the process," he said.

Most applicants quickly lose interest once the reality sinks in that these are back-breaking jobs in triple-digit temperatures that pay minimum wage, usually without benefits, according to the union. Some small farms are not required to pay minimum wage and in 15 states farms aren't required to offer workers' compensation.

Despite the dismal job market in the U.S., where the unemployment rate is 9.5% and 14.6 million people are out of work, there have been few takers.

"I think everybody in our society is pretty clear that the least desirable job in the U.S. is being a migrant farm worker," said Rob Williams, director of the Migrant Farm Worker Justice Project. "If someone said to me, 'Here's a hazardous job and there's no worker's compensation,' I'd say, 'No thanks, It's kind of a no-brainer."

The Department of Agriculture counts nearly one million farm workers in the United States. According to the Migrant Farm Worker Justice Project, 85% of farm workers are immigrants -- and up to 70% of them are illegal.

Rodriguez, the union president, said the campaign is meant to draw attention to the need for immigration reform, such as the so-called AgJobs bill currently held up in Congress. The bill would grant temporary legal status to immigrants, which would become permanent if they continue to work on farms for a specific period of time.

"If [members of Congress] can't do their job in passing the bill, then they should come work in the fields," he said.

Illegal workers are rich fodder for anti-immigration leaders such as Gov. Janice Brewer, R-Ariz., who told reporters in June that the "majority" of immigrants crossing the border from Mexico are smuggling drugs for cartels. The governor also signed into law requirements for state police to "determine the immigration status" of anyone under "reasonable suspicion" of being an illegal alien.

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued the state of Arizona to overturn its new immigration law.

The proponents for migrant farm workers insist that they help, not hinder, the U.S.

Williams said that if people who oppose immigration "got their wish and all the unauthorized people went home tomorrow, we would have a crisis. We wouldn't have anyone to pick the crops, milk the cows, or take care of the Christmas trees."

He added, "It may be the least desirable job, but it's the most important job for all of us, because we all eat."  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 7:38am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Intel Corp 36.37 -0.65 -1.76%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of Dec 19

Sections

New York Magazine reporter Jessica Pressler, who has been caught up in controversy this past week, will not be moving on to a new job at Bloomberg News. More

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Forums in dark corners of the web sell the kinds of hacks that befell Sony. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

The income of the top 1% jumped significantly in 2012, far outpacing inflation. Not only did this group make a larger share of the country's income, their share of total taxes also jumped from 35% to 38%. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.