United Farm Workers to Americans: Take Our Jobs

For anyone concerned that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens, the United Farm Workers has a response: Come take them back. 

The UFW has started a Web site called takeourjobs.org. A statement posted on the site's homepage clarifies the message:

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"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.

We are a nation in denial about our food supply. As a result the UFW has initiated the "Take Our Jobs" campaign.

Farm workers are ready to welcome citizens and legal residents who wish to replace them in the field. We will use our knowledge and staff to help connect the unemployed with farm employers. Just fill out the form to the right and continue on to the request for job application."

Founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962 as the National Farm Workers Association, the organization has worked to improve working conditions and raise wages for those laboring in the fields. And it's succeeded. Some of the organization's major victories are listed on the UFW Web site and include:

  • The first genuine collective bargaining agreement between farm workers and growers in the history of the continental United States, beginning with the union contract signed with Schenley vineyards in 1966. 

  • The first union contracts requiring rest periods, toilets in the fields, clean drinking water, hand washing facilities, protective clothing against pesticide exposure, banning pesticide spraying while workers are in the fields, outlawing DDT and other dangerous pesticides, lengthening pesticide re-entry periods beyond state and federal standards, and requiring the testing of farm workers on a regular basis to monitor for pesticide exposure. 

  • The first union contracts eliminating farm labor contractors and guaranteeing farm workers seniority rights and job security. 

  • Establishing the first comprehensive union health benefits for farm workers and their families through the UFW's Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan. 
  • In an interview on "The Colbert Report" (see below), the current UFW president, Arturo Rodriguez, said the organization has received only three requests from American citizens expressing an interest in working in the fields. Any other takers?

    Kerry Weber

    The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c Arturo Rodriguezwww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News
    Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
    Jim McCrea
    7 years 5 months ago
    As a kid I spent 2 weeks of one sommer (that's all I could last) detasseling corn.



    I wouldn't do it for $50 an hour!
    7 years 5 months ago
    Speaking of Cesar Chavez, I saw an interesting talk by him at American Rhetoric on the role the Catholic Church played (or didn't play, actualy) in the farm workers movement ..... "The Mexican-American and the Church" ...
    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/cesarchavezspeechmexicanamerican&church.htm


    " [...]  At about that same time, we began to run into the California Migrant Ministry in the camps and field. They were about the only ones there, and a lot of us were very suspicious, since we were Catholics and they were Protestants. However, they had developed a very clear conception of the Church. It was called to serve, to be at the mercy of the poor, and not to try to use them. After a while this made a lot of sense to us, and we began to find ourselves working side by side with them. In fact, it forced us to raise the question why ourChurch was not doing the same.
    We would ask, why do the Protestants come out here and help the people, demand nothing, and give all their time to serving farm workers, while our own parish priests stay in their churches, where only a few people come, and usually feel uncomfortable?  It was not until some of us moved to Delano and began working to build the National Farm Workers Association that we really saw how far removed from the people the parish Church was. In fact, we could not get any help at all from the priests of Delano. When the strike began, they told us we could not even use the Churches auditorium for the meetings. The farm workers money helped build that auditorium! But the Protestants were there again, in the form of the California Migrant Ministry, and they began to help in little ways, here and there ...."

    Stanley Kopacz
    7 years 5 months ago
    "we've become a  society of spoiled brats in which people believe that they are "above" doing manual labor and/or are feminized such that they are unable to do a hard day's work"

    If they were feminized, they'd work harder.  My mother did hard work until she was 76 and had her heart attack.  Look at women throughout the world and figure who does the bulk of the labor.
    james belna
    7 years 5 months ago
    One hundred years ago, native-born Americans performed almost all of the farm labor in this country. It was, then as now, grueling, tedious, and poorly-paid work. As our society grew more mobile and urbanized, fewer Americans were willing to stay on the farm and work the fields. That is why today there are millions of undocumented foreign-born laborers working in the fields of Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas - NOT.
     
    Farmwork in the Midwest didn't go away; it simply became mechanized. Specialized high-tech farm equipment now does almost all the work with far more efficiency, safety, and comfort than human workers could ever match. A farmer can profitably manage the cultivation of thousands of acres virtually single-handed, riding in the air-conditioned cab of a $250,000 machine. 
     
    The UFW farm workers owe their jobs to the fact that it is still cheaper for California farmers to exploit cheap foreign labor than to invest in the technical innovation that would eliminate this backbreaking work. Quite frankly, I am surprised that there are even three American citizens willing to volunteer to take their jobs. It is the kind of work that no sane person should want to do, and in an advanced technological society, the kind of work that no one has to do.
     
    Someday soon, either through immigration enforcement, rising labor costs, or the shame of unnecessarily subjecting men to the indignity of such dangerous and debilitating labor, American workers are going to take the UFW's jobs. And when they do, they will be operating big expensive pieces of American-made machinery.
     
     
     
    Stanley Kopacz
    7 years 5 months ago
    I'm not sure about the applicability of automated technology to the types of crops grown in the midwest as opposed to California.  I don't think of monoculture grains when I think of California.  I think of lettuce and other green things less amenable to mechanized harvesting.  Also, the monoculture plants necessary for industrialized, mechanized farming are more susceptible to diseases and pests.  Also, what happens when the cheap oil runs out? And the bugs are becoming resistant to insecticides.  What are the tradeoffs in quality of food necessary for its mechanization?  Can organic farming methods, which may become necessary in the future, be as mechanized?  I have my doubts.
    John Donaghy
    7 years 5 months ago
    Mechanization of agriculture is not really the answer. There are tasks that can only be done by humans. For example, seed corn companies in Iowa and elsewhere employ people for detasseling. Twenty years ago many high school students came out and did this hard, but fairly well-paying job. About 15 years ago many of the workers were migrants, since the companies could not find enough local youth (and others) to do this hard, dirty job.
     
     
    charles jordan
    7 years 5 months ago
    The United Farm Workers make a good point, and offer a reasonable challenge. 
    The point that should not be lost however is that being undocumented is the issue not being foreign born. 
    It will be interesting to read if other unions offer there point of view on how much union work is lost to undocumented workers who are paid below union wages, and who often are subjected to unhealthly if not illegal work conditions because the employers know that the undocumented will not complain.
    ed gleason
    7 years 5 months ago
    Does not a huge percentage of Jim Beina's midwest grain harvested in A/C machines go to animal feed where the un documented at slaughter houses again do all the slaughter work US citizens wont do? Dont we need comprehensive  immigration reform with a path to citizenship and national tamper proof ID cards instead of pointing to excuses. terrorism being  the new excuse.
    Beth Cioffoletti
    7 years 5 months ago
    I suspect that it's not the answer to feeding all of us, but I sure wish that the organic, local food market could get a better foothold in this country.  Land and food are sacred parts of knowing who we are.  Why in the world would Jesus say that he was the bread of life, work of human hands, if this were not true?  This idea that food comes from huge agro-business far removed from anything that any of us know as real strikes me as profoundly bereft.  That only the most desperate are willing to do the work shows that we've really got things backward. 
    7 years 5 months ago
    If only 3 Americans showed up to do the work, the problem is that we've become a  society of spoiled brats in which people believe that they are "above" doing manual labor and/or are feminized such that they are unable to do a hard day's work.
    People in this country would prefer to cry to the government to give them tax-payer money than do hard work.  Folks who have gone to college believe (notwithstanding their lack of knowledge and skills post-graduate) that they are entitled to an easy desk job at a high wage.  Unfortunately, there are not enough white-collar jobs for all of those with college degrees.
    I think the unemployment offices should make offers of these jobs to the unemployed; if they refuse the job, they lose their benefits.  For those who accept the job offer, I'd even go so far as to allow them to collect the difference between their unemployment check and the amount that they get paid in the fields.  These farm jobs have the added benefit of saving money on gym memberships.
     
    Vince Killoran
    7 years 5 months ago
    Throughout this nation's history American farmers have never accepted the argument that the people who pick their crop should be paid anything above near-starvation wages.  Cindy Hahamovitch's THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR is a history of how-even when faced with few migrants to pick their crops-farmers used every device possible (padrone contracting, forced labor, and canvassing for undocumented workers) to do the work cheaply.
    ed gleason
    7 years 5 months ago
    Vince,
    You forgot to add ..always pushing to get exempt from child labor laws.
    7 years 5 months ago
    "If they were feminized, they'd work harder"

    Spoken like a true feminized man, Stanley.  Did my gender stereotype bother you?  Was it necessary to call attention to my word choice in a hastily written comment rather than comment on its essence, i.e., that men no longer want to work hard? 

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