The Farmville Files: Take Our Jobs
There are two issues facing our nation–high unemployment and undocumented people in the workforce–that many Americans believe are related.Missing from the debate on both issues is an honest recognition that the food we all eat – at home, in restaurants and workplace cafeterias (including those in the Capitol) – comes to us from the labor of undocumented farm workers.Agriculture in the United States is dependent on an immigrant workforce. Three-quarters of all crop workers working in American agriculture were born outside the United States. According to government statistics, since the late 1990s, at least 50% of the crop workers have not been authorized to work legally in the United States.
GABRIEL THOMPSON: People would say after five days you start getting use to it and the pain goes away. But really what happens is you just you start redefining what constitutes pain. And so you just have to become use to always having your hands swollen, and used to your back going out, and used to falling asleep at the drop of a hat.I would say, the positive is that, as opposed to some of the other jobs I did, there is a real feeling in the fields – at least where I was – of solidarity among workers – about workers really feeling that the work they’re doing has a lot of dignity. And they – even if American consumers in grocery stores dont make the connection, workers in the fields make the connection that they are literally feeding the United States American citizens and doing some of the hardest jobs that exist.MICHEL MARTIN: Mr. Rodriguez, I noticed that you laughed when Gabriel mentioned that living with the constant pain and you actually chuckled. Why did you chuckle?ARTURO RODRIGUEZ: No, because it’s true. I mean your hands are swollen. They’re cut up. They’re stained. And the women that oftentimes theyll work on their knees and their knees are brown so they won’t wear skirts because they’re ashamed of showing that off to people. I mean those are just the realities that farm workers face every single day. So it’s a grueling effort, a grueling job that takes place and they get very little recognition for what they do. But the reality is, that if it wasnt for them, we would not have food on our tables every single day.