Friday, December 02, 2011

Not convinced

Alabama tomato farmer lets tomatos rot in field due to "lack of labor" caused by "immigration law".

My guess: If he ran a van up to Birmingham and started putting up fliers, he could find plenty of labor, though he'd have to provide transportation to his fields for them. Birmingham has an unemployment rate of close to 40% in some neighborhoods. But that labor would be those (gasp) NEGROS, and he's scared of them darkies since they got all uppity and all (the illegals aren't uppity 'cause they're scared of being deported), so he isn't going to do that.

Talk about not thinking outside of the hood...

Now, I don't agree with Alabama's immigration law because in my opinion it punishes children and it punishes people who've proven they deserve to be called Americans. But this article, combined with what I know about conditions for people of color in Birmingham, just made my blood boil.

-- Badtux the Baffled Penguin


  1. OK, I live in Alabama so I can speak to this. The farmers tried to get labor to come pick tomatoes, fruit and other produce crops. Pay was min wage which is what the migrants were paid. There were a few that do come to give it a try. All of them faced a learning curve on what to do. Most lasted less than a day and a few lasted two days. There are few folks that are able to do the back breaking work that field labor requires. If the Alabama rethugians have their way, all of the folks living in public housing will be moved back to the farms as sharecroppers or forced labor. Not a pleasant way to live with either choice. The use of transient labor that follow the crops from location to location is a better way IMHO. The farmers do employ local labor to do the year round work and only need the transient labor for a brief period of time. So far the local police have arrested a German working at Mercedes Benz and a Japanese working at the Honda plant. Both were released but it highlights the problem with the law. It leaves no discretion to the Police to make a judgement call.
    Finally, there should be some kind o program to allow for transient labor to help hold costs down otherwise a tomato will cost $5 instead of the $2 it does today.

  2. Yah, I read about the German and Japanese executives arrested. The law is stupid. But the whining about lack of labor at a time when some neighborhoods of Birmingham have a 40% unemployment rate is just silly.

    And yeah, if farmers are used to having a trained workforce and now they have an untrained one not used to hard physical labor, they're going to have to make some adjustments while their workforce gets trained and gets accustomed to the hard labor. And your point is?

    The Alabama farmers are fundamentally throwing a hissy fit to try to punish their state government for driving off their preferred labor force. Hissy fits may make you feel good, but they don't get the tomatos picked. Just sayin'.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  3. When I was a kid, my folks sent me to "Farm Camp." It was a working organic farm where they grew concord grapes for juice. Basically they had a dormitory in one of the barns where the kids would sleep along with the parent volunteers who were there to supervise the kids. We didn't do the bulk of the farm work but we did a lot. We milked the cows and fed the chickens and collected eggs and stuff. We worked in their large garden where they grew a lot of the food they served to the kids. They got a lot of work out of us kids and it was a valuable experience for a bunch of urban kids.

    If I were a farmer who needed a bunch of people for a couple for a couple of weeks to pick tomatoes, I would set up a farm camp for kids and then I would go to a place like Birmingham and I would invite folks to come work in the fields for minimum wage and to bring their kids who would get to go to farm camp while the parents are working. Sell it as both an opportunity to make some money without worrying about childcare *and* a good wholesome opportunity to expand their child's experience. People work real hard if they think doing so helps their kids.

  4. I agree it is not a lack of people to the work. It is the lack of people willing to do the work for the wages that the farmers want to pay. They seem to forget that labor is a market just like everything else. Since the cheap labor has been kicked out of the state, they need to adapt to the market.

    As for the German and Japanese that was arrested... it will be interesting to see what effect that law is going to have with future decisions to expand factories.

  5. The Alabama tomato "farmers" are full of pasture pies. First of all they aren't so much farmers as tractor drivers. They do the relatively easy work and then expect to hire labor at rock-bottom prices to handle the heavy work. And they expect to treat them like garbage.

    What's my proof?
    World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an organization that connects college age kids with organic farms where they work for free or very little money. I know both farmers who host WWOOF volunteers and volunteers themselves.

    So how do you reconcile the tomato farmer who says he can't get labor with organic farmers who get free or nearly free labor? Decency. People treated decently will work much harder.

    Somebody from an urban area that shows up at a tomato farm with no hat, no gloves, no neckerchief and no experience picking tomatos is going to feel like death on a plate after 4 hours. They would be bored except it hurts too much. Then they'll do a bit of math in their head and say "I feel like this for $32" and walk away; and rightly so.

    Mr Alabama tomato farmer is used to treating people worse than you'd treat a mule. A mule would stop working if it didn't get water and rest in the shade.

  6. The basis for this law at least in Alabama was not so much to drive out cheap labor. It was enacted by the Rethugians to discourage Hispanic voters. Because traditionally Hispanic have leaned more toward the Dems than they have the thugs. So, you pass a law to arrest anyone that even looks like they aren't from around here and you put the fear in them that life in Bama is going to be a hassle. Legal or not, the suspicion is going to be there and they are gonna get profiled and pulled over for that famous "Illegal Lane Change".
    More later.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Well, I have to admit that if you don't know the history of how agriculture in Alabama transitioned from an all-black manual labor workforce to an all-Hispanic manual labor workforce, you might have questions about that. The main issue for Alabama farmers is that once blacks got full civil rights, they got "uppity". They demanded fair pay and good working conditions, they called OSHA on a dime if the farmer didn't provide the OSHA-mandated restroom facilities, gatorade, and water in the fields, and if the farmer refused to cater to their demands, they simply walked off the job and let crops rot in the field. So Alabama farmers started hiring the Hispanics rather than blacks because the Hispanics weren't "lazy" (synonym for "uppity"), they wanted new slaves with no civil rights, and that's what they got. So maybe "racism" isn't a good description for what then happened -- the large-scale eviction of blacks from rural Alabama fields to the cities -- but that's what happened anyhow.

    So now the Hispanic work force has been evicted, and they aren't interested in training up a new black work force to replace the Hispanic workforce, and are whining about their fate. They do have one point -- if they paid blacks the wages required to get blacks into the fields picking those tomatoes, they can't compete with tomato growers in other states who can continue to use Hispanic slave labor. On the other hand, to go from there to whine that labor is completely unavailable seems to me to be blatant disregard for the *fact* that Alabama's agricultural workforce was, until the 1970's, almost 100% African-American -- and those people didn't just vanish off the face of the planet, yo.

    - Badtux the History Penguin

  9. The lazy white trash that lives around him don't want to work for low wages either.

    I always did what I needed to do to get through life even if it was low paying jobs at times.

    Oh well, I don't need any tomatoes anyway.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.