H2-A NOT TODAY CAMPAIGN
Rally Visuals. Photo by Maribel Montes de Oca
Mount Vernon, WA – Friday, April 11, 2014 - The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration received an application from Sakuma Bros. Farm requesting 438 H-2A workers to begin work in Washington state from June 18, 2014 to October 15, 2014 to work approximately 35 hours a week for six days a week picking strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and apples. The application has not yet been approved.
Meanwhile 440 farmworkers who went on strike six times last harvest season and are leading a Boycott of Sakuma Bros. Farms berries through their organization Familias Unidas por la Justicia are determined to work the 2014 harvest season and continue negotiations towards a fair contract with their employer. The approval of H2-A workers could jeopardize their ability to secure employment in a firm that many have worked for exclusively for the past decade. H2-A regulations require a demonstrable labor shortage for approval. Section 655.135 requires 1. non-discriminatory hiring practices and 2. No strike or lockout.
Reject Sakuma App. Photo by Edgar Franks.
§ 655.135 Assurances and obligations of H-2A employers.
An employer seeking to employ H-2A workers must agree as part of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification and job offer that it will abide by the requirements of this subpart and make each of the following additional assurances:
(a) Non-discriminatory hiring practices. The job opportunity is, and through the period set forth in paragraph (d) of this section must continue to be, open to any qualified U.S. worker regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, handicap, or citizenship. Rejections of any U.S. workers who applied or apply for the job must be only for lawful, job-related reasons, and those not rejected on this basis have been or will be hired. In addition, the employer has and will continue to retain records of all hires and rejections as required by § 655.167.
(b) No strike or lockout. The worksite for which the employer is requesting H-2A certification does not currently have workers on strike or being locked out in the course of a labor dispute.
H2-A Picket Line. Photo by Deanna Torres.
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 65 Familias Unidas por la Justicia rank and file accompanied by 40 supporters demonstrated outside of the Mount Vernon PUD building as Latino Civic Alliance hosted Alberto Isiordia of Washington State’s Employment Security Department (ESD) to discuss the H2-A program and the role of the ESD to a small audience of local Skagit County stakeholders including Sakuma Bros. Farms owner Steven Sakuma, company president Ryan Sakuma and a cadre of the company’s anti-labor union consultants including Raul Calvo of Salinas, CA and representatives of Dan Fazio’s Washington State Farm Labor Association (WAFLA). Senator John McCoy was also in attendance to observing the proceedings since he took interest in the matter after the farmworker strikes and called a special hearing in November of 2013 in his capacity as a state representative at the time.
Ramon Torres, president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia led chants that included “We are ready to work”, “No Consultants”, “No H2-A” and “Boycott Sakuma” for over three hours outside of the Skagit PUD building. At the end of the night the crowd was addressed by Alberto Isiordia of the ESD, who claimed that he had done everything that was possible under the current law. Torres presented Isiordia with paperwork that brought the total up to over 450 signed letters by Familias Unidas por la Justicia migrant farmworkers in California, saying they were ready to work at Sakuma Bros. Farms, negating a labor shortage. Local advocates encouraged Isiordia to take a stand to defend farmworkers, to take a stand against corporate greed. Isiordia pleaded that the power was not in his hands to deny the Sakuma H2-A application, but in the hands of the Department of Labor.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia Rank and File at ESD presentation. Photo by Chris Davis.
Familias Unidas por la Justica asks those of you with the ability to do so to take on the following call:
Our Farm Worker Community needs your help today. As many of you know, Familias Unidas por la Justicia has been in a labor dispute with Sakuma Bros. Farms in Skagit County.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia want a just wage, fair treatment, and decent housing and have been trying to negotiate with the farm since last summer.
Many of the Farm Workers have been working at Sakuma Bros. Farms for many years and have helped it become one of the most recognizable names in agriculture within the region.
However the workers that have helped the Sakuma Farm throughout the years are now in danger of losing their livelihood because as of Monday April 14, 2014 Sakuma Bros. Farm has applied to bring in over 400 workers under the controversial H-2A program.
Under H-2A the farm can displace the families that are already here and have been working at the farm with contracted workers from outside of the US.
We are asking supporters to email Charlene Giles from the Dept. of Labor in Chicago, who plays a critical role in determining the status of the H-2A application that Sakuma applied for and also email Alberto Isiordia from Employment Security Department in Olympia, Washington who also oversees the H-2A process.
We want workers to be treated with dignity considering all the contributions they make to our local economy and food system and don’t want the further exploitation for our brothers and sisters with the systemic implementation of a quasi-slave labor force.
Please support Familas Unidas por la Justicia.
Dept. of Labor
Employment Security Dept. of WA
Reject H2-A Application. Photo by Deanna Torres.
H2-A Picket Line – Mount Vernon, WA. Photo by Chris Davis.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia Rank and File. Photo by Chris Davis.
Farmworker Solidarity. Photo by Chris Davis.
WHO WE ARE NOT
About a week before Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc. submitted an application to the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration requesting 438 H-2A guest workers for it’s large-scale corporate farm, Whatcom Farm Friends spokesman Henry Bierlink published a patronizing retort to a Sakuma Boycott picket line in Lynden, WA earlier that week. The application has yet to be approved.
(In 2012, Whatcom Farm Friends wrote similar editorials and launched a campaign to appeal to state legislators in defense of PTM Farms, LLC who was discovered to be using child labor under the age of 12 to harvest blueberries.)
In his editorial, Bierlink argued that it was “wrong, irresponsible and intentionally divisive” to expose common practices in the multi-million dollar berry industries, because it was wrong to “demonize their [Sakuma Bros] farm”. He alluded to the Sakuma family’s internment as a reason for the farmworker organization to stop holding the farm accountable for farmworker’s present day experiences of wage theft, mistreatment, substandard housing, and other grievances.
WHO WE ARE
Sakuma Boycott Picket line in Lynden, WA. Photo by Maribel Montes de Oca
Familias Unidas por la Justicia at this moment represents 440 farmworkers who are ready to work at Sakuma Bros. Farm. Last harvest they went on strike six times and launched a boycott against the commodity berries that they produce because the grower refused to continue negotiating with the worker elected committee and President Ramon Torres after the arrival of H2-A guest workers for the 2013 harvest.
The firm recognized the collective committee during the harvest of 2013 and initially cooperated with the farmworkers to reinstate a farmworker, remove a violent supervisor, and to settle an incident of wage theft involving minors during the Strawberry harvest, remove bed mite infected mattresses from the labor camp, signed a promise not to retaliate against the workers, developed a cooperative piece-rate committee that included Sakuma supervisors and test-pickers delegated by Familias Unidas por la Justicia.
All of this unprecedented progress and good faith negotiation between Sakuma employees and their employer came to an abrupt end the moment that H2-A guest workers arrived at Sakuma Bros. Farms.
2013 Sakuma Guestworkers at Wal-Mart. Photo by Ramon Torres
WHY WE ARE FIGHTING
UNSUSTAINABLE LARGE-SCALE CORPORATE FARMING
Simply stated, large-scale industrialized agriculture is unsustainable, we have known this for over a century. Large-scale agriculture would not exist without the removal of indigenous nations by military force to reservations, state infrastructural development, federal entitlements, tax incentives, state funded university research and farming subsidies.
Large-Scale Industrialized Agriculture has not been able to reach the level of production of Industry because it is limited by specific needs based upon the seasonal nature of production in agriculture, differences in the nutrient quality of the land, access to water, the inability to mechanize many of the highly perishable and lucrative crops. These limits have resulted in the artificial creation and dependence upon a flexible, seasonal, highly skilled agricultural labor force that must be activated in large quantities for temporary periods that is willing to work for lower wages than legally required in industry.
Sakuma Blueberry Harvest Machine used only on organic crops. Photo by Tomás A. Madrigal
The limits of industrialized agriculture is a structural problem which has historically produced a wide variety of organizational experiments that attempt to meet the seasonal demand for labor, stabilize the workforce, establish control over workers and successfully reproduce a future work force. These have included latifundia surrounded by peasant farmers in Europe (Kautsky 1988 ); haciendas and plantations articulated to Indigenous/peasant communities in the Americas (Wolf and Mintz 1957; Katz 1974); the slave-based plantation-economy of the U.S. south (Goldsmidt 1947; McWilliams 1949; Taylor 1954); the articulation of peasant-workers into the capitalist economy as transnational seasonal migrant farm workers (Griffith and Kissam 1995; Krissman 1996; Meillassoux 1975; Á. Palerm 1980; and J.V. Palerm and Urquiola 1993) or as guest workers (Galarza 1964 and Gamboa 1990), and the stabilization of a marginalized and vulnerable working poor via barrios, colonias and company towns (Alamillo 2006; Camarillo 1979; Garcia 2001; Grandin 2009; and J.V. Palerm 1991, 1998, 2000).
What these experiments, in the context that they have traditionally coexisted, have artificially produced is the internal division of the very labor markets they tend to pool. Griffith and Kissam (1995) argue, “Simply, the farm labor market has always been heterogeneous. Internal differentiation has rested, at various times, on ethnic background, residence (migrant vs. local), gender, attachment to farm labor, or legal status.” (14).
Often these experiments in addressing the limits of capitalist agriculture have been administered or sanctioned via public policy (Fisher 1953; Galarza 1964; Goldschmidt 1947). One of the ways that U.S. policy has helped industrialized agriculture in California to harness the labor-power of seasonal agricultural workers at a low cost has been to maintain a continual shift in the ethnic make up of the entire labor force at moments of economic crisis (Fisher 1953; Goldsmidt 1947; McWilliams 1939; Zaragoza 2007).
This has allowed large agricultural firms in the U.S. to externalize the cost of the reproduction of labor-power in two ways:
1) By keeping local workers in marginalized communities via unstructured labor markets such as Colonias that supply a pool of available labor for surrounding agricultural enterprises (Fisher 1953; Kautsky (1988) ; J.V. Palerm 1991, 1998, 2000) and
2) By depending upon foreign labor-power that is imported directly via contract and indirectly via informal social networking. This labor power is often reproduced via non-capitalist modes of production in foreign domestic spheres (Kautsky (1988) ; Meillassoux 1975; Á. Palerm 1980; J.V. Palerm and Urquiola 1993).
These shifts were managed in the U.S. by public policy through the formalization of harvest labor markets during moments of crisis and through their deregulation during periods of economic prosperity, producing an informal harvest labor market (Fisher 1953).
We are at the apex of such a moment of crisis where the drums are beating for even more formalization of harvest labor markets. Because of the history of the Bracero program, the passage of the IRCA in 1986, and the Patriot Act of 2001, “legal status became the most important factor in establishing internal labor markets.” (Griffith & Kissam, 14) In simpler terms, legal and extra-legal repression against undocumented workers is being used to artificially drive down everyone’s wages and labor is always subsidized no matter where it comes from.
AN ADDICTION TO INDENTURED LABOR
The Bracero Program 1942-64
Mexican Braceros in Field. Photo source: UC Santa Cruz
The most recent and well-documented formalization of the harvest labor market took place through what was known as the bracero program. Created in 1942 via wartime agreements between the United States and Mexico the bracero program was continued via the passage of Public Law 78 after World War II (Galarza 1964; Gamboa 1990; García y Griego 1980). This particular formalization of the U.S. harvest labor market solidified a culture of migration from rural Mexican campesino households and U.S. agricultural firms came to prefer Mexican-origin labor (J.V. Palerm, 1991; J.V. Palerm and Urquiola, 1993).
Not all agricultural firms were able to benefit from this formal contract labor market, this solution to the limits of capitalist agriculture privileges large and mostly corporate agricultural firms, mainly in California. From 1943 to 1947, in remote locations in the states of Washington, Idaho and Oregon there were a considerable amount of strikes led by Mexican braceros over wages and food services (Gamboa, 77).
One of these strikes occurred in Burlington, WA over the practice of paying higher wages to Anglo workers in 1943 (Gamboa, 80). Because of a history of these types of work stoppages and federal intervention on wage standards, most farmers in Washington stopped depending upon Braceros after 1947, opting instead to return to the informal labor market made up of labor from the U.S. south, in particular Texas and the Dust Bowl region. The entire nation returned to an informal labor market after the formal end of the Bracero program in 1964.
After the termination of the Bracero program in 1964 a tremendous amount of progress was made by farmworkers in California led by the United Farm Workers union, gaining several victories that was pinnacled by the passage of the California Labor Relations Act in 1975.
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1954
The passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1954 authorized “the lawful admission of temporary, nonimmigrant workers to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.” (DOL) Because it coexisted in its early stages with the extension of the larger Bracero Program through 1964, and because of its stringent requirements, it was hardly used by growers. Growers instead relied upon the informal labor market generated by braceros who stayed and continued to work in the United States and new immigrants who took advantage of the proliferation of the permanent resident alien “green card/mica” black market. This caused enough of a differentiation in the labor markets for primarily large-scale California firms to reach a level of prosperity that was unprecedented.
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
IRCA’s Special Agricultural Worker program legalized 1,093,065 farmworkers in the years after its passage. These newly legalized farmworkers changed the status of a population of farmworkers that had traditionally been treated as scabs by farmworker unions, and who were treated as disposable labor and used to break strikes by growers. Their legalization alone created a powerful division of the labor market in 1985, effectively breaking the strength of the United Farm Workers union and setting the wheels in motion towards the formalization of the harvest labor market to re-introduce indentured labor programs such as the bracero program during labor shortage emergencies. It wasn’t until after the passage of IRCA in 1986 and well into Operation Hold the Line in 1993 and Operation Gatekeeper in 1994 that the H2-A visa program came to more prominent use.
The Patriot Act of 2001
The passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 effectively placed the ongoing militarization of the U.S./Mexico border on steroids. The amount of deportees from the U.S. back to Mexico exponentially increased and the number of immigrants deterred also increased, as the rising death toll of undocumented immigrants forced to cross in the desert and mountain passes under harsh weather conditions also indicates.
U.S. policy had the direct effect of closing the border as one would turn off a faucet. The H2-A visa program, originally meant for the rare, naturally occurring labor shortages, came to be increasingly used for a massive labor shortage that was directly created by the closing of the border and the massive deportation of undocumented workers.
Rather than to eliminate indentured labor in its formal and informal (legal and extralegal) manifestations, the artificial U.S. manipulation of labor market differentiation based on legal status has allowed for indentured labor to proliferate. A farmworker reported that the current going rate for human beings to be smuggled into the United States is $10,000.00.
(It costs about $5,000.00 to become a resident alien in comparison)
Because of the high cost of smuggling, this enterprise has seen an increase. Also because of the high cost, individuals are more likely to be held for ransom until their fees are paid. Human trafficking thus proliferates as a result of this calculated manipulation. On the legal end of this high stakes economic rush are the contractors who make a living of warehousing the people who are being processed such as the GEO group that runs Immigration Detention Centers, Law enforcement agencies who qualify for more funding if they meet a quota of apprehensions by any means necessary, and farm labor contracting organizations such as the Washington Farm Labor Association (WAFLA) who are cashing in on the artificial labor shortage emergency by exploiting a legal loophole that promises a more docile and easily exploited workforce, who from the nature of being immediately deportable for what ever reason the employer chooses and are not able to move freely between employers, are 21st century indentured labor.
THE STRUGGLE AT HAND
On April 11, 2014 the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration received an application from Sakuma Bros. Farm requesting 438 H-2A workers to begin work in Washington state from June 18, 2014 to October 15, 2014 to work approximately 35 hours a week for six days a week picking strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and apples.
SOME BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF INDENTURED LABOR THEN AND NOW
During the bracero program, “Local and regional meetings were made, well in advance of the harvest to prepare the rate tables. These were intended to produce ‘the desired average hourly earnings’ and ‘to provide a realistic basis for a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay under the range of conditions found.’ The rates were scaled upward as production diminished.” (Galarza, 150)
According to Galarza, “The schedules were nothing more than formal announcements of the rates fixed by the associations. They differed from the traditional ‘prevailing wage’ in that they were based on analysis by experts in incentive payment methods. The Department of Labor accepted them in place of a survey finding. The survey was still made, but its purpose was merely to verify that a published schedule was being adhered to by all employers.” (Galarza, 150)
Fast-forward to the present case in 2014, Sakuma Bros. Farm offered the following piece-rate schedule for their berry crops and agreed to the mandatory Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) for their apple crop.
According to the application, “The prevailing standard is that piece rates fluctuate greatly during harvest season. Piece rates function as a dynamic mechanism in the harvest process. When picking conditions are unfavorable or there are relatively few workers, piece rates increase. When picking conditions are favorable or there are relatively abundant numbers of workers, piece rates tend to decrease.”
Our research indicates that the prevailing standard at Sakuma Bros. Farm for piece-rates has been to use piece rates to speed up production, as opposed to functioning as a dynamic mechanism, which implies mutual benefit. Piece-rate schemes which often do not account for hours worked in record keeping because the focus is on production has led to a tremendous proliferation of wage theft by the corporation. In 2013, over $6,000.00 was recovered by Familias Unidas por la Justicia for 30 youth that the farmworker organization represents. Sakuma executives blamed the wage theft on a computer glitch, however when the company accountant was asked to examine the very same paystubs, she said they were legitimate.
According to Ernesto Galarza, “Constraint was also placed on the bracero by the practice of many employers of collecting the passports and other documents of the aliens on their arrival in camp. In exchange the employer issued an identification card which could be presented to police officers as evidence of legal entry into the United States. The card was valid only in the area of employment.” (Galarza, 225-226)
This is a practice that the Washington Farm Labor Association (WAFLA), who spoke on behalf of its client growers, including Sakuma Bros. Farms has publically defended and advocated for its extension to state driver’s licenses during a Washington State legislative work session held in Everett, WA on November 14, 2013.
Sakuma Guestworker Transport 2013. Photo by Ramon Torres.
On the application for 2014, the company is offering transportation to the grocery store only once a week for the workers, and as of April 11, 2014 the company has completely fenced in the labor camp allocated to the prospective guest workers and has established a checkpoint at the only entrance to the compound and implemented a private security patrol. The company argues that these measures are to keep unwanted people out, though they conveniently function as a physical reminder to keep people in.
Galarza’s study found that during the early years of the Bracero Program, “The quality of housing provided the alien workers remained for many years a sore spot of the program. Between 1942 and 1951 a good deal of such housing was improvised. Discarded barracks were bought at bargain prices from army surpluses and former…camps were hastily reconditioned for bracero use.” (Galarza, 194)
As public dissent led by labor leaders, including Galarza himself, continued to mount pressure to shut down the bracero program, employers made minimal efforts to upgrade the substandard housing.
Similarly, at Sakuma Bros. Farms in 2013, the grower spared no expense in renovating the plywood walled and tin roofed shacks that it was planning to use for guest workers in order to come to compliance. Labor Camp 2 and Labor Camp 1, however, were not upgraded, bringing to light the social significance of compliance when taken in a larger context.
Though guest worker barracks meet a minimum standard, the grower is under no legal obligation to have those standards extend to any domestic workers. For many members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, this was a blow to their human dignity.
And regardless that there were fresh paint and new equipment in the H2-A worker shacks, they still got sick because there was no insulation and the Mexican workers from Northern Mexico were not used to such harsh weather.
Campo Rojo H2-A worker camp 2013. Photo by Tomás Madrigal
The application claims that the labor camp housing has been inspected and complies with applicable housing standards, but that any compliance problem that arises it is up to the workers to report and to pay for any damages they may inadvertently cause from their occupancy.
Because indentured laborers are not familiar with the hazards of commercial growing that uses pesticides, workplace injuries related to poisoning are common. This is also true for braceros in the 1940s, as Galarza demonstrates,
“Industrial poisons, which braceros were allowed to handle, led to disablement or death. One worker died from inhaling parathion which he applied without a protecting mask. Another lost the sight of an eye after it was infected with the residue of a spray that had been applied to tomato plants a few hours earlier.” (196)
At Sakuma Bros. Farm, farmworkers have come forward to share their family’s own experiences of loss, workplace injuries and sickness caused by exposure to industrial chemicals and pesticides.
Because berries are a highly perishable crop, chemical application happens at several stages of production, not just to ward off pests, but also to encourage the berries to ripen and to keep them from forming mold in the humidity.
Pesticide Warning sign at Sakuma Bros Farm 2013. Photo by Tomás Madrigal
One family at Sakuma Bros. Farm lost an uncle who was an applicator, driving the company tractor. He had complained about his illness and had asked to be moved to a different job during his last years. His request was denied and he met an early death at the age of 35.
His nephew, who had been his assistant, was promoted to the same position and also fell ill. This farmworker, at the urging of his family, requested to be compensated for his risk of illness and was declined, he then requested that the company cover his medical expenses, which were also declined. He quit and began working at a local small-scale organic family farm as an applicator of organic pest-control treatments for berries and fully recovered his health within a few months.
Applicators are not the only farmworkers who risk poisoning. One young picker who joined her husband in the Sakuma Berry fields reported that she fell ill when her crew entered a field earlier than the time required by state law. She was stooping under a blueberry bush and looked up, and regardless that her face was covered with handkerchiefs, pesticide residue entered her eye. She described an agonizing pain that she experienced, she received emergency treatment and was sent home.
Her suffering did not end with that initial exposure. She lived in the company labor camp, and her cabin was adjacent to a conventional berry field, she heard a knock at her door and a company supervisor telling her to close her windows. She complied, and a pesticide applicator began spraying next to her cabin. The noxious chemical permeated into her cabin, which was made of plywood walls with a tin roof. She became extremely ill, but had no other option but to return to work in the very field she had just been sent home from.
Sakuma H2-A workers who became ill in 2013 faced a similar predicament of being stuck on the premises of the farm. One such H2-A worker was offered a ride as he walked the rural roads towards the pharmacy to pick up medicine because Sakuma Bros. Farm only offered free transportation out of the labor camp once a week for groceries.
Sakuma Bros. Farms listed as part of their H2-A application for 2014 that they require their workers to voluntarily agree to the following in order to work:
- Exposure to extreme temperatures
- Repetitive Movements
- Extensive pushing and pulling
- extensive walking
- frequent stooping
- Working Overtime and Holidays if necessary
All of these activities, as documented in Seth Holmes’ Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies (2013) lead to musculoskeletal injury, illness and ultimately pre-mature death.
WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR
Dignity, in its simplest terms for farmworkers means respect for their work, for their families, and care of their environment. Today, dignity takes the shape of 440 farmworkers fighting for their livelihoods; it is no coincidence that the H2-A application requests 438 farmworkers for the 2014 season.
In Felimon Piñeda’s words, “Our work, the work we do, is life. Because we plant the plants that bear fruit so that people can eat, that they can be strong and healthy, to have the energy to survive. With our own hands we plant, we sort, and we harvest the fruit. And so the work that we do is life, the life of the entire country.”
He continues, “I want it to be possible to have laws that protect farmworkers. I fight not for me, but for my children, I have three. This is our future. I am middle aged, in my thirties and I don’t know how much longer I will be able to do this work.”
Farmworkers, like Sakuma Bros. Farms executives, are tired of failed negotiations. Farmworker’s want to settle their negotiations in good faith. To them settlement means that their employer addresses their grievances and that their rights are protected in a legally binding contract.
Farmworkers are also fighting for a return to small-scale organic farming in the region. Farmworker’s support real family farming where interpersonal relationships between growers and producers like Familias Unidas por la Justicia are not dictated by an impersonal market, but instead by personal connection. We are fighting for a Domestic Fair Trade and Solidarity Economy that takes the wellbeing of the entire community and transnational families into account, not for profit at any cost.
- A Guest Worker Program is only one of many options that can be used to address the Limits of Industrialized Agriculture.
- Any guest worker program, whether it is special visas or a Bracero type program formalizes the harvest labor market.
- Formalization of the Harvest Labor Market has historically been detrimental to small farmers
- Wage requirements: minimums and ceilings that are determined from above.
- Housing requirements: benefit large or vertically integrated corporations who have the capacity to house temporary workers. Most small farmers do not have the infrastructure to house large quantities of workers, placing the burden on the local government to provide seasonal farm worker housing.
- Food Services: benefit large or vertically integrated corporations who may have a company store or food center that can support large quantities of temporary workers. Most small farmers do not have the capacity to feed large quantities of workers.
- Transportation: benefits large or vertically integrated corporations who have the capacity to transport large amounts of workers either by contract or by direct transportation. Small farmers do not have the capacity to transport large quantities of workers.
- There are not many large corporate farms in Whatcom County. The formalization of the Harvest Labor Market therefore would not benefit the region’s agricultural labor needs.
- Because Berry Farming in particular, depends upon household contract labor, not individual wage labor, a labor market made up of individual producers would not meet industry production standards, it would instead have an adverse effect of lowering them, requiring much more labor that the firms are not used to paying for, hence a labor crisis in Whatcom County which will require further expenditures from the federal government to further subsidize labor in the berry industry.
- The harvest labor market can be stabilized in industrialized agriculture at a fraction of the cost via an Immigration Enforcement Policy that limits the detention and deportation of unauthorized farm workers who currently reside in the United States. ICE, CBP and DHS temporary policy memos on enforcement are currently moving in that direction with a preference for future high tech workers (Memos on DACA, on Interpretation, and on Schools, Residences and Churches), it would be useful to include farm workers as a component of differed action and as low priority targets as those temporary policies made by Presidential Decree and Departmental Memo are worked into law by Congress.
- Ideally, as is the case for unauthorized childhood arrivals (future high tech workers) there would be a pathway to citizenship based upon existing laws that privilege high tech workers and high need fields such as nursing in order to privilege farm workers who can document their employment as primarily agricultural workers.
- Citizenship has been demonstrated to contribute to a greater control over the agricultural workforce. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) that extended a pathway to citizenship to farm workers who could demonstrate their status led to a period of calm in industrialized agricultural production. This calm was undone after the passage of the U.S. Patriot Act in 2001 that led to the apex of the militarization of the borders and was coupled with community policing and targeted enforcement models that looked suspiciously upon these very communities. Categorized by home invasion and workplace raids, harassment, and routine traffic stops turning into cases of detention and deportation, these immigration enforcement policies have destabilized the harvest labor market.