Why do we need migrant workers to harvest our fruits and vegetables when we have so many people unemployed or under-employed that are looking for jobs? According to Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development, it’s because native workers won’t often take the jobs–and even when they do, they don’t last very long. This is true despite the fact that native workers are given preference in hiring over migrant workers.
According to the report of Clemens’s research (published in 2013), of the 489,000 unemployed in North Carolina, only 268 native workers applied for the available 6,500 seasonal farm jobs in 2011–a year of high unemployment. Over 90% of them were hired, but only 163 showed up for work on the first day! And of the 163 who worked, only 7 completed the harvest season–less than 5% of those who had started! Comparatively, 90% of migrant workers completed the season. You can read the entire report HERE.
Right now, vegetable farmers are struggling to find anyone to harvest their crops due to the anti-immigrant environment, oppressive state and local laws and fear of ICE detainment and deportation. If workers cannot be found, you can be sure that we’ll all feel the pinch at the grocery store!
Questions for Reflection
Why do you think native workers (U.S. citizens) don’t take these available jobs? Or make it to the end of the season?
If you were a grower, would this report impact your hiring practices? How?
How does this report challenge prevailing attitudes about migrant workers and/or immigrants?