CIRS Blog about Rural California

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By Leslie Griffy

Agricultural businesses and the insurance companies that serve them are scrambling to prepare for the changes that health care reform will bring over the next few years.

Many smaller farmers struggle with the details of the Affordable Care Act, such as how to count seasonal farmworkers to determine who they must insure. Employers of more than 50 will face fines if they don’t insure eligible workers.

Meanwhile, three of California’s agricultural-focused health insurance providers required waivers from ACA rules to continue operation. Those waivers expire next year.

“There is a lot of confusion,” said Norm Groot, president of Monterey County Farm Bureau. “I think everyone is really put off with the amount of complexity, particularly for agriculture.”

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By David Runsten, Richard Mines and Sandra Nichols

The great failure of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was that it did not provide for a continuing legal flow of new immigrants to manually–skilled labor markets. People will keep coming if there is a demand for their labor and what is required is a policy that legalizes and manages this flow in the most efficient and least-cost manner. The research strongly suggests that the net economic impact of immigrant labor is positive, and that employment of U.S. workers is highly complementary to immigrant labor in manually-skilled labor markets.

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This press release was issued by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

 

SACRAMENTO, CA (February 19, 2013)

On Friday, February 15, 2013, Judge Perantoni of the Riverside County Superior Court, after learning that RBI Packing, LLC of Mecca, California fired approximately 55 farm workers, ordered RBI to stop discriminating against its employees on the basis of their union activity and to offer them priority in hiring for all agricultural jobs at the company’s Blythe-based lemon ranch. 

mecca

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in Farm Labor 2581 0
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The view a PDF of the report with figures and additional information please click here.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 upheld the show-me-your-papers provision of Arizona’s SB 1070 law while reaffirming the federal government’s authority over immigration policy making. The Court, which in May 2011 upheld another Arizona law that required all employers to use the Internet-based E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires, may have opened the door for more states to enact laws to crack down on unauthorized foreigners. There is unlikely to be significant federal legislation immigration legislation in 2012 and perhaps not in 2013–14.

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Interviews with female farm workers were conducted by Vallerye Mosquera and Luis Magana in 2011. The stories below were excerpted from three of these interviews and edited by Gail Wadsworth for posting here.

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in Farm Labor 7722 0
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Despite the most stringent regulations in the U.S., agricultural workers in California continue to die from heat related illness, a preventable outcome, and are at higher risk than other workers exposed to hot environments. The search for effective and feasible solutions must involve diverse approaches appropriate for hired farm workers.

A current research project titled, “Reducing the risk of heat-related illness in western agricultural workers” brings together investigators from medicine, epidemiology, public health, physiology, rural sociology and community outreach and education. The group’s goal is to obtain novel data on internal body temperature as it relates to crop type and geography, external heat, and internal metabolic loading.

This long-term collaborative research project between the University of California Western Center for Agricultural Worker Health and Safety and the California Institute for Rural Studies will gather behavioral, physiological and environmental data from California agricultural workers and environments that will allow us to assess vulnerability to heat related illness, provide the methodology to test potential strategies in the fields, and disseminate results to stakeholders. The project employs innovative techniques for both understanding and evaluating potential solutions to reduce the risk of heat related illness in varied agricultural settings.

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in Farm Labor 7352 0
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This is the first in a six part video series speaking with Larry Kleinman, Secretary-Treasurer for the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United (PCUN) about the plight of farmworkers in Oregon, and across the country. PCUN shares its ideological roots with the United Farmworkers Union (UFW), but it’s a separate organization whose base is concentrated in the Oregon counties of Marion, Polk, and Eastern Clackamas, south of nearby Portland.

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Filmmaker and photographer U. Roberto Romano wrote an op-ed piece for the website Media Voices for Children for the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, 2012.

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in Farm Labor 9701 0
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There are many issues related to California’s Central Valley that have been in the news recently. Topics such as social justice, farmworker health and labor conditions, immigration and its role in labor fluctuations/shortages, how pesticides are affecting drainwater and the health of people and animals living in the Valley and the ability of lawmakers to shift the future of agriculture in the country. This post is a collection of these issues. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to learn more about a topic you were unaware of, or a chance to learn more about issues currently influencing the region.

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Freelance writer and poet, Carolyn Budd, shares one of her poems.

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in Farm Labor 10989 0
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In most jobs, if you have to spend even part of your workday exerting yourself under the hot summer sun, you’re likely to have drinking water nearby. And, if you don’t, you probably won’t be penalized for going to find some. But for many farmworkers in California, the largest agricultural producer in the country, the freedom to hydrate isn’t always so straightforward.

Even as temperatures climb above 90 degrees F, many of the state’s 400,000 farmworkers don’t have access to shade; or the water station is too far from where they are picking a crop, and they have to put off getting a drink. And since farmworkers are so frequently paid on a piece-rate basis rather than hourly, there’s strong incentive to put off that drink, if available at all, for as long as possible.

istock_cooler_cropped

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in Farm Labor 7573 0
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Last week, two elderly farmworkers took the brave and very unusual step of suing their employer, an onion grower in the Coachella Valley, for violating the few labor laws that protect farmworkers. The two men were regularly paid less than the minimum wage, required by California law, never paid overtime, and not given protective equipment, said Megan Beaman, the attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance who filed the suit on their behalf.

Such practices are common in our nation’s fields. Since many farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, and afraid to speak up, the violations go unreported. As Tracie McMillan writes in her new book, The American Way of Eating (for which she worked undercover in produce fields, two Wal-Marts, and an Applebee’s), even if a company is caught adjusting a worker’s actual hours downward, so that it looks like they paid her minimum wage instead of a much lower piece rate, the fine is around $350. Tracie herself lost out on about $500 for one month of picking. Growers thus have a strong economic incentive to cheat workers.

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California is at the leading edge of demographic change in the United States, as the state’s cities, suburbs, and rural towns are inhabited by millions of foreign-born, and their children, who now account for half of California’s population. Many of these groups have been around for generations and have influenced California’s culture—from its arts and politics to its customs and cuisine. Yet, these same groups are often scapegoated when it comes to the state’s sluggish economy, overburdened hospitals, or underperforming schools. The numbers, however, do not tell the full story of how these Californians are shaping the physical and cultural landscape of the state.

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in Fair Trade 7321 0
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There is a contradiction of US interests opposing child labor in the international context while allowing agricultural exceptionalism to undermine child labor protections here in the US. Agriculture is the largest employer of children worldwide.  According to the UNFAO, “Poverty and child labor interact in a vicious cycle and are mutually reinforcing. In rural areas, there is need to fight poverty and hunger in order to fight child labor.”

kids_in_the_fields

Photo from Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

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in Farm Labor 26543 0
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The information in this post is from Rural Migration News, a publication on rural issues at University of California, Davis. Rural Migration News summarizes and analyzes the most important migration-related issues affecting immigrant farm workers in California and the United States during the preceding quarter.  This post focuses on poverty, water, labor shortages, health and current state laws.

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In 2011, some notable government actions influenced immigration policy across the US.  The federal Secure Communities program came under fire, five more states, following Arizona’s lead, enacted independent immigration laws and deportations reached an unprecedented high level.


GW_1230_Image

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By Gail Wadsworth and Vallerye Mosquera

With funding from University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, CIRS is partnering with Dr. Michael Rios and Vallerye Mosquera from UC, Davis, and Luis Magaña from the Organizacion de Trabajadores Agricolas de California, to complete a community-based risk assessment tool for heat stress.  This tool is unique in that it is focusing on the risk of heat stress to farmworkers within their communities.  In other words:  off the farm.

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