Farmworker Justice’s Letter to the Editor: Protect Workers

Protecting Workers
While your July 26 article about agricultural labor (“North Carolina wary of possible farm labor shortage”) accurately conveyed the agenda of many growers, it’s disheartening to read an article about farm work that lacks a discussion of the workers themselves.

Many growers favor either an expansion of the H-2A agricultural guestworker program or the creation of a new guestworker program. Current guestworker proposals contravene our core beliefs and values by taking advantage of economically desperate foreign workers and depriving them of economic freedom and political representation.

The H-2A program is inherently flawed and characterized by rampant abuse of both domestic and foreign workers. The H-2A visa ties the workers to their employers, making it hard for workers to quit or report labor violations or abuse. Further, employers who use the program tend to favor H-2A guestworkers over U.S. workers because they will work to the limits of human endurance for low wages.

The most important solution is for Congress to provide America’s experienced, hard-working agricultural work force with improved labor protections and a roadmap to citizenship to stabilize the farm labor force, ensure that farmworkers are treated fairly and assure our nation a safe and sustainable food supply.

By Bruce Goldstein

August 8, 2012, North Carolina.

Farmworker Justice’s Letter to the Editor: Pay more, get more workers

Matt O'Brien's recent article on a perceived agricultural labor shortage ("California farmers fear labor shortage," Aug. 1) shies away from presenting the most obvious solution to the problem. Farmers, like employers in any other industry, should work to attract and retain a productive workforce by offering improved wages and working conditions.

Growers are notorious for complaining of worker shortages as part of a larger campaign to relax the minimal protections that exist for farmworkers. Instead, growers should recognize that workers are their most important asset and treat them as such.

Recently, growers have advocated for an expansion of the foreign guest worker program for agriculture. But that's far from the solution our country needs. Instead of recruiting an army of guest workers who lack the rights and protections of U.S. citizens, we should enable current undocumented farmworkers and guest workers with a road map to legal residency and citizenship.

Bruce Goldstein
President, Farmworker Justice Washington, D.C.

August 8, 2012

Contra Costa