|Typical Southern white farmer|
Workers Claim Race Bias as Farms Rely on Immigrants
By ETHAN BRONNER
VIDALIA, Ga. — For years, labor unions and immigrant rights activists have accused large-scale farmers, like those harvesting sweet Vidalia onions here this month, of exploiting Mexican guest workers. Working for hours on end under a punishing sun, the pickers are said to be crowded into squalid camps, driven without a break and even cheated of wages.
But as Congress weighs immigration legislation expected to expand the guest worker program, another group is increasingly crying foul — Americans, mostly black, who live near the farms and say they want the field work but cannot get it because it is going to Mexicans. They contend that they are illegally discouraged from applying for work and treated shabbily by farmers who prefer the foreigners for their malleability.
“They like the Mexicans because they are scared and will do anything they tell them to,” said Sherry Tomason, who worked for seven years in the fields here, then quit. Last month she and other local residents filed a federal lawsuit against a large grower of onions, Stanley Farms, alleging that it mistreated them and paid them less than it paid the Mexicans.
The suit is one of a number of legal actions containing similar complaints against farms, including a large one in Moultrie, Ga., where Americans said they had been fired because of their race and national origin, given less desirable jobs and provided with fewer work opportunities than Mexican guest workers. Under a consent decree with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the farm, Southern Valley, agreed to make certain changes.
With local unemployment about 10 percent and the bureaucracy for hiring foreigners onerous — guest workers have to be imported and housed and require extensive paperwork — it would seem natural for farmers to hire from their own communities, which they did a generation ago. ...
Mr. Stanley, like other farmers, argues that Americans who say they want the work end up quitting because it is hard, leaving the crops to rot in the fields.
But, in response to this normally unanswerable crops-rotting-in-the-fields argument, the New York Times article printed two paragraphs of sheer racist hate-filled common sense economic analysis that normally you only read in the most disreputable rags:
"... farm work, like other difficult labor, could be made attractive to Americans at reasonable cost, and that farmers should not be excused from doing so.
“There used to be lots of American pickers who moved around the country,” he said. “But wages have stagnated and conditions have deteriorated, and agriculture is unwilling to make these jobs attractive. Think of trash collection. That’s not very appealing, either. But if you offer a decent wage and conditions, people do it.”
Who dared say such evil?
"Jim Knoepp of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that has campaigned against the guest worker program..."
This could get fun.