Unfortunately many in America consider the major issues facing our country – high unemployment and undocumented people – as interrelated, so they support inhumane immigration laws to reclaim the low-paying jobs undocumented immigrants have stolen. But, these individuals fail to realize that agriculture, a major low-paying job that gives us the food we all eat, is so dependent on an immigrant workforce that the anti-immigrant platform for economic reform is actually unrealistic and harmful to our livelihood. Farm workers are teaming up with comedian Stephen Colbert to challenge unemployed Americans in a tongue-in-cheek call for immigration reform: Come on, take our jobs.
Labor and political leaders concerned about an adequate labor supply for the crucial agricultural sector, hosted a news conference on Thursday, June 24, to launch the national “Take Our Jobs” campaign aimed at hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers.
This rather bold campaign, sponsored by the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) and immigrant rights advocates, challenges opponents to follow through with their platform and to mobilize unemployed American citizens to willingly walk in the poorly conditioned shoes of these immigrant farmers’ for even a day.
“Our county, our economy, rely heavily on the work of immigrant and unauthorized workers,” said Michael Rubio, supervisor in Kern County, one of the biggest agriculture producing counties in the nation. “I would encourage all our national leaders to come visit Kern County and to spend one day, or even half a day, in the shoes of these farm workers.”
Campaigners believe that they will not take up the opportunity. To highlight how unlikely the prospect of Americans lining up to pick strawberries or grapes, Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” plans to feature the “Take Our Jobs” campaign on July 8.
“The reality is farm workers who are here today aren’t taking any American jobs away. They work in often unbearable situations,” UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said. “I don’t think there will be many takers, but the offer is being made. Let’s see what happens.”
The effort spotlights the immigrant labor issue and underscores the need for reforms without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore. According to government statistics, three-quarters of all crop workers working in American agriculture were born outside the United States, and at least 50% of the crop workers have not been authorized to work legally in the United States.
“The campaign is being played for jokes, but the need to secure the right to work for immigrants who are here is serious business,” Rubio said.
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, UFW offers farm workers who are “ready to train citizens and legal residents who wish to replace immigrants in the fields,” and encourages Members of Congress to refer their constituents to vacant farm worker positions. UFW has locations across the country where Members of Congress can direct their constituents willing to do work on large-scale farms. Employers will be on hand at each site to answer questions, meet prospective employees and assist in the application process. All who are interested or unemployed and are legal residents or U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply. Any takers?
Photo courtesy of www.fanpop.com.