The Future of Farm Workers
For anyone concerned that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens, the United Farm Workers has a response: Come take them back. The U.F.W. has created a Web site called takeourjobs.org. A statement on the site argues that Americans incorrectly correlate the high unemployment rates in the United States with the increasing number of undocumented immigrants. The statement concludes with a challenge: “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.”
Founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962 as the National Farm Workers Association, the organization works to improve working conditions and ensure fair wages for those laboring in the fields. Today, at least 50 percent of the farm workers in the United States are not legally allowed to work here, but the work they do is a vital part of the agricultural industry. As part of its larger efforts, the U.F.W. helped to draft the bipartisan Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security bill. First introduced in 2003, the bill languished for years before it was reintroduced in 2009. If passed, the bill will offer temporary resident status to workers with at least two years experience who promise to work in American agriculture for an additional five years. It also would streamline the administrative process for approval of temporary resident status, which benefits both employers and workers. Its passage would help stabilize the agricultural work force and the family lives of the workers, who would no longer live in fear of deportation.
In an interview on “The Colbert Report,” the current U.F.W. president, Arturo Rodriguez, said the organization has placed only three American citizens in the fields. If the AgJOBS bill does not pass soon, the U.S. agricultural industry may need many more citizens to volunteer.
After a monthlong tournament that was not short on surprises, the World Cup soccer competition ended on July 11 as many predicted it would: with Spain holding aloft the coveted trophy for the first time. With six starters from the Barcelona football club, the Spanish team was hailed as a symbol of national unity in a country with a well-known history of political division. Such good feeling may pass, sadly, as it did for France in the wake of their early exit from the tournament. In 1998 France’s ethnically diverse World Cup-winning team was held up as representative of a new France. Twelve years later a team that included 13 men of color was pilloried in its home country for not being sufficiently patriotic.
The ethnic diversity of the teams was among the most compelling storylines of the tournament. Here was Germany’s Mesut özil, a midfielder of Turkish descent, scoring a goal from 25 yards out to rescue the team’s World Cup hopes. Who cared if on occasion özil failed to sing along with the country’s national anthem? His goal helped advance Germany to the round of 16. National loyalty melted away, too, as Ghana moved into the round of 8. The South African crowd rallied behind the team as the standard bearer for the continent. By the end of the tournament, most fans had switched their allegiances many times over. In the final game South Africans were even rooting for the Dutch, their former colonial rulers. Which is how it should be on the final day of the World Cup. A contest that begins with too much jingoism ends with fans worldwide reveling in the final outcome. ¡Viva España!
Death on the High Seas
Reality television usually contains little that is real. For some years, “The Real World,” one progenitor of American reality television, has relied on a tired format, throwing together unstable twentysomethings in predictable mixes (one African-American, one gay man and so on) with predictably explosive results. That’s why the latest season of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” has proven surprising. The popular show focuses on the travails of the crab fishermen of Alaska. Over the last few years viewers have come to know the hard-bitten crews as they ply the unforgiving Bering Sea in search of king and opilio crabs.
This season, one of the unlikely “stars” of the show, Capt. Phil Harris, a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed veteran crabber, suffered a stroke. His relationships with his two complicated sons, who work on his ship, have been at the heart of the series. Harris told producers to keep the cameras running, even as he entered the hospital. So unlike other reality shows, which gin up situations to create fake tension, “Deadliest Catch” has found real pathos. In the episode focusing on Harris’s hospitalization, one tough crewmate told Harris’s son he needed to be at his father’s side, not on the boat. Nearing death, Harris whispered an apology, “I’m sorry that I was a bad father.” His son compassionately brushed off the apology and professed his love for his tough dad. It was a vivid reminder that grace is everywhere: on the Bering Sea, in a hospital bed and even on television.