New York Times article urges GOP to block farmworkers’ wages hikes

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Republican legislators’ inaction on immigration may increase wages for Hispanic farmworkers in California, a New York Times article warned March 29.

“In recent years, farm owners have grown increasingly fearful of labor shortages [and] last year, the diminished supply of workers led average farm wages in the region to increase by roughly $1 an hour,” read the article, which described the agriculture sector’s threats to cut contributions until GOP legislators agree to raise the inflow of low-skill migrant workers.

“Getting higher wages! Heaven forbid,” responded Steve Camarota, the research director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

The Times’ recognition that extra immigrants will impact wages for Hispanic-Americans shows that “the interests of workers is exactly contrary to what the advocacy groups [for higher immigration] are pushing,” he added.

However, farmworkers’ salaries are too unstable to say if their wages are trending up, Camarota added. Their current wages are still level with 1980’s wages, largely because the past and current inflow of illegal immigrants has provided a surplus of workers, he said.

The push for more foreign workers — who will reduce any marketplace pressure for higher wages — is being led by industry executives.

These executives include farm-owners and labor companies that supply thousands of contracted Americans farmworkers, as well as many recent immigrants and illegal immigrants, to farms during the harvest seasons.

However, the mostly Hispanic farmworkers aren’t joining the executives’ effort to drive down their wages, admitted the New York Times’ reporter, Jennifer Medina.

“The employers are more frustrated than the actual immigrants” about the GOP’s refusal to bring in hundreds of thousands of new workers, complained Joe Del Bosque, who runs a farm near Fresno growing almonds, cantaloupes, almonds and asparagus.

“I thought it would have been much more contentious for them, but they are not so demanding,” he said.

The labor shortage “is not a revolution for them — it’s more for us,” he complained.

The Times’ reporter, however, didn’t quote any farmworkers who welcome a shortage of workers. “I spoke to a couple of workers… [but] I didn’t ask that specific question,” Jennifer Medina told The Daily Caller.

In fact, Medina only quoted executives. “In dozens of interviews, farmers and owners of related businesses said that even the current system of tacitly using illegal labor was failing to sustain them,” Medina wrote.

Medina isn’t the only New York Times reporter eager to help Democrats boost the inflow of foreign workers into a stalled economy where 20 million Americans — including many professionals — are unemployed or underemployed

Last October, New York Times reporter Julia Preston told a Washington, D.C. audience that a lavishly funded campaign to win amnesty for illegal immigrants is “a very substantial civil rights movement.”

Between 2007 and 2012, companies and foundations spent $1.5 billion to rewrite the nation’s immigration law, according to March 2013 report from the  Sunlight Foundation.

One executive who was sympathetically quoted by Medina was Chuck Herrin, who hires illegals for contract work in many farms’ fields. “We have no choice… We are not getting people who are coming out of the towns and cities to come out and work on the farms,” Herrin complained.

Medina did not mention if she had asked Herrin whether he had tried to recruit American workers by offering higher wages, or if he was investing in labor-saving machinery, such as semi-robotic crop pickers.

She also ignored the role of supply and demand that should boost salaries when there’s a shortage of workers.

“I suppose somebody could make that argument,” she told TheDC.

But Medina did highlight a threat by angry executives to stop donating to the GOP if they don’t get more cheap workers, many of whom are so poor that their wages are topped up by taxpayer-funded medical help and food aid.

“The tension is so high that the powerful Western Growers Association… says many of its members may withhold contributions from Republicans in congressional races because of the party’s stance against a comprehensive immigration overhaul,” Medina wrote.

Medina’s article was cheered by The Washington’s Post’s Plum Line blog, whose progressive author urged GOP leaders to comply with the demands of the special-interest groups. “The growers are increasingly convinced the chance for reform is slipping away and they are getting cut out as a result,” said the blogger, Greg Sargent, who didn’t mention workers’ pay.

Some GOP leaders, however, want to push further away from business groups. These leaders, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, chairman of the Senate’s budget committee, say reduced immigration will spur wages and the GOP’s ballot-box support among the various ethnic blocs that are being assembled and consolidated by the progressives’ divide-and-rule political strategy.

Medina’s data about farmworkers’ wages is also suspect. She cited a report by the University of California at Davis, which shows wages rose for farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley by roughly $1.00 from 2011 to 2012.

But their wages fell in the previous two years, said the Davis study.

A wage estimate by the California-based Farm Employers Labor Service and several other organizations, however, showed a little movement in wages from 2012 to 2013. The average wage for an experienced “general laborer” was $10.57 in 2013, up only 38c, from $10.19 in 2012.

Many illegal workers are still coming over the border, and there’s no data showing a rise in wages for low-skilled workers in California, Camarota said.

The “comprehensive immigration reform” bill cited by Medina would allow agriculture companies to bring in roughly 300,000 low-skill foreign farms workers every five years, and put them on a track to citizenship.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate last June, also fixes the salary of imported farm workers at a level well below the average wage in California, even for workers who operate farm-machinery. That bill passed with support from all 54 Democratic Senators and 14 GOP Senators.

The bill would also boost the inflow of foreign workers and immigrants up to 40 million over the next decade. Polls show the 40-million bill is supported by wealthy and progressive voters, and is opposed by conservative, middle-income and swing-voters.

 

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