Need a Job? Replace a Migrant Worker!
Last night, in a fit of insomnia, I decided to go to the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, just outside of downtown. We are hosting a World Cup party on Sunday, and having been told about the good prices and unique experience, I thought I’d give it a shot. The place is not your ordinary Costco or Farmer’s market. In fact, by 3:00 a.m., when I arrived, it had started winding down. Most of the produce is what you would expect to find at a store like Safeway or Albertson’s, but you can find some good, fresh fruits and vegetables there. But the visit got me thinking—with the increasingly vicious and polarizing debate over immigration, would folks have second thoughts about their assumptions if they tried giving it a shot as a migrant farm worker? I thought about this, too, as I drove through Santa Cruz County last weekend, through the strawberry and artichoke farms. The United Farm Workers has thought about this issue, too. The UFW launched a “Take Our Jobs” web site, offering those who want a crack at working on a farm give their contact information. Whatever side you take on the immigration issue, the fact is that migrant farm workers—50% of which are undocumented—work at about $12,000 a year to provide the food that ends up on our tables and in our restaurants. I know many people who are vegetarian because they are appalled by the way animals are treated. Fair enough—does anyone think about what workers who work in the farms and orchards endure? Just food for thought . . . I signed up out of curiosity—within 24 hours I got this email, which gave me the steps involved for taking a job—and then the following note:
Please review and if interested in any job position, select the position. You will be directed to the job listing and how to apply. We really want to make sure that this program works. We would like to hear from you if you were able to get a job. Once you apply to the job listing, we will follow up with you within five days to further assist with the process. If you submitted your application electronically please save the date and time of your application. The Employment Development Department or Employment Agency website in your state often provides a confirmation number. Please save it and have it with you when you communicate with the UFW office.Who knows if this will make a difference. But seeing those warehouses in downtown LA, and realizing how all those leeks, peaches, and cucumbers get from the farm to my kitchen makes me a little more appreciative of what I’ve got—and that there are no easy answers to solving the immigration issue.