Georgia's anti-immigrant law leaves millions in crops rotting in the fields

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149 Responses to “Georgia's anti-immigrant law leaves millions in crops rotting in the fields”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This isn’t such a bad thing. After all, so many people pursued careers in finance, insurance, and law simply because that’s where the wages were attractive to the detriment of careers that would be more fulfilling to the individual or to the community. Price signals works.

    Describing it as a worker shortage is nothing more than code for saying wages are too high in the opinion of the speaker.

    Unfortunately, at a minimum the processor or retailer captures 80% of the final sales price for food and a level of 95% would be common. The same thing happens in the fashion and apparel, or electronics industries — sweatshops are not necessary for production. If there is such a large markup and the margin of middle-men are back to levels from the Great Depression: the price of goods will be too high or the wages paid will be too low to have a self-sustaining economy.

    Prices for food do not have to rise, the share of profits just needs to be adjusted. Pay more in wages, or cut the consumer’s price for food to a level where $8 is an attractive wage.

  2. Mujokan says:

    What’s the big deal? Just switch to importing food. I don’t think the US has a problem with its trade deficit or the strength of its dollar, does it?

  3. Baldhead says:

    I find it difficult to believe that $8/ hr is so high as to make things unprofitable, and for that matter considered so low as to be “unlivable”. poverty level? perhaps, but of course poverty level is relative, and always judged as the bottom 25% of wages, regardless of what that is.

    • arborman says:

      I would think poverty level is ‘when you can’t afford to feed/clothe/house/treat/educate’ your family. Nevermind the bottom 25% of the income levels or anything else. Poverty is hardship.

    • goblinbox says:

      If you use a calculator, you can discover that $8/hr. equals $1280/mo. If you subtract from that a reasonable fee for rent, utilities and bills, transportation, and food, you have a wage too low to support an individual person.

      When you subtract taxes as well, it’s less than a grand take-home per month.

      I know of nowhere in the U.S. where I could survive on less than a thousand dollars per month without some sort of help from a friend, family member, or charity.

      Therefore, eight bucks an hour is not a living wage, and even after being unemployed for nearly two years I wouldn’t accept a job at that rate if I could help it. Especially not one as strenuous as harvesting blueberries.

      As for charging what it really costs to produce food: we’re so accustomed to subsidized products in this country that I’m fairly certain the market would collapse immediately if people were actually expected to pay for the worth of their food.

      • codesuidae says:

        I know some places in Texas where living on $1280 a month isn’t difficult. You won’t be taking vacations to Disney or anything, but you can have a comfortable and fulfilling life. I’m sure there are many other areas that are similar, I’m just familiar with Texas because that’s where I happened to be when I was living that way.

        When you make a lot more than that for a long time, it’s pretty easy to get to a place where it’s hard to imagine being able to live on $50 a day.

        The hard part is knowing that it’s difficult to access modern luxuries that can drastically improve quality and length of life at those wages.

      • travtastic says:

        You do have to bear in mind cost of living.

        That being said, I live in a place with a relatively low cost of living, and $8/hr is a job I would take as a last-ditch effort to pay my rent.

        • travtastic says:

          I should probably also add that I’d be homeless sooner than do back-breaking manual farm labor for $8/hr.

      • Nylund says:

        $1,200 a month isn’t unlivable for a single individual. It does suck though. Its about what I get as a grad student. I have no savings and can’t go out to dinner or movies or whatever, but I manage. I pay my rent, eat (well) at home, and work. Its no fun, but doable! Then again, I get to work in an air conditioned room while sitting in a chair, not doing back-breaking labor in 100 degree heat under a harsh sun. That part would suck.

        As for the parolees, they did bring some in, and most quit. They didn’t think it was worth it. Yes, basic economics says the farmers should just pay more until they get the labor they need, but that would probably necessitate raising the prices of the goods they sell, something they can’t do as long as they compete with neighboring states without this policy. The only way to pass the higher costs to the consumer is to enact this policy on a larger scale so that all farmers are on more equal footing.

        Absent of the ability to pass the higher costs on to consumers, its likely that farming will be unprofitable at a higher wage rate. Maybe a farmer could market their product the way people market free-range chickens or organic veggies as “non-illegal-immigrant picked” and get away with a higher price, but I doubt it’d work.

      • Slightly Askew says:

        Median apartment price in my old neighborhood for a 1-bedroom is currently $389/mo. I’m thinking you’re not familiar with that many areas of the country.

        • Anonymous says:

          Wow! I haven’t paid that low since the mid-nineties. Actually, since I’m Canadian, my rent has *never* been that low, exchange-rate equivalent.

          So where is that? Some nowhere small town? It definitely ain’t New York City or San Francisco.

  4. JoshP says:

    http://gfvga.org/ lol
    something that could ease the problem… as a for instance, i’m less than 100 miles from this area, yet I have no realtime access to any grower that needs labor or which product is in season, wage, necessary experience, whatever… and that would be how tough to implement? craigslist, but official?

  5. Nylund says:

    Megan McArdle didn’t write the post you link to. While it is her blog, it was written by a guest blogger (Adam Ozimek) while she’s on a break.

    Besides the fact that Adam’s name is listed at the top, the big giveaway that Megan didn’t write it, is that the post pretty much gets things right. Heck, the supply and demand curves even make sense! That’s very unMegan.

  6. Anonymous says:

    OK I feel like I have entered crazy town. Why is everyone talking about minimum wage laws? It is clear that the market is fixing wages appropriately. Minimum wage laws don’t really have anything to do with it. What you are seeing is how the huge supply of illegal immigrant labor depressed the prevailing wage for agricultural jobs. Now farms will have to pay more to attract agricultural workers. If it isn’t worth it to the farmers to pay more to get their crops picked then a higher minimum wage isn’t going to suddenly make it worth it for a farmer to hire more workers.

  7. pauldavis says:

    the comment thread at the end of the AJC article is well worth reading, inspite of the vitriole and name calling. there are some really interesting conflicting points of view here, and some details that most people are probably not aware of (most notably that the labor cost in a head of lettuce is about 10c). i strongly suggest that people read it all before commenting.

  8. emmdeeaych says:

    Oh, so there were unintended consequences to their bigoted control drama? Shocking.

  9. g0d5m15t4k3 says:

    I made $6/hr in high school when I lived with my parents. And there is no way in hell I could have lived on my own with that. The only people who would take this job is possibly some high school kid whose parents want them to know what a “long hard day at work” feels like. Parolees are probably not that hard-pressed (though some may take it if they need to maintain consistent work).

    I started to watch that 30 Days thing by Morgan Spurlock last night. I will have to finish watching it tonight. I live in the city it was based in. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about living on minimum wage.

    • codesuidae says:

      When I was first out of high school I was doing alright making $8.50 an hour, and I was married with a kid.

      That was is in, like, ’96 though, so that would be like $12 an hour now. But still, decent apartment, car, kid, cable tv, computer, internet, etc. No problem, it wasn’t even a struggle.

      One of the guys I worked with at one time made a living delivering pizzas. He lived in an old single-wide trailer with no power (but with water service) where he could hang out with his friends, drink beer and have a good time, read, exercise, etc. We were getting paid $5.50 an hour, plus tips (inconsistent, but maybe $4 an hour on a good day).

      I was living with my parents at the time, because I wasn’t willing to be that poor.

      I think we just have really high-standard poverty here.

    • Missy says:

      When I was a freshman in college, minimum wage was $3.35/hr. I worked two jobs (and sometimes three), paid my own tuition (college was a smidge less expensive than it is now – about $2,500/year as opposed to this year’s $8,600), lived with two roommates in a decent apartment in a nice neighborhood, and generally did OK. I had already moved out from home the year before, at the age of 17, and I never moved back.

      Contrast to my son, who graduated from high school last weekend. He spent two years looking for work, and was finally hired for a full-time position two weeks ago, at a wage of $8/hr. He had wanted to move out, but realized that in order to do it the way I did 20+ years ago, two jobs would be an absolute necessity, and he’d need at least 5 roommates. Poor kid was panic-stricken.

      I told him to stay home for a while. Sock away all of his money, and instead of paying me rent, he can do things around the house for me. It’s fucking BRUTAL out there. $8/hr is just not enough.

  10. bcsizemo says:

    I don’t think is as easy as no one wants to do the work.

    I’d bet that a vast majority of these farms who were using illegals were betting that this law wouldn’t get passed. Now that they are in a bind they don’t have the time to find legal help. I see this as more of a power play than a really serious issue.

    If farmers want to keep farming they will figure out something else to farm that will work for their labor needs.

    I live in NC, we used to farm tobacco. When that started going down the tube a lot of places switched to grapes and doing wine. Seems to have worked out better than expected.

  11. SharpieSniffer says:

    Americans want cheap food and Americans don’t want illegal immigrants here. You can’t have both. Cheap food is made possible by cheap labor stooping in hot fields picking your tomatoes and onions and blueberries. We pay less as a percentage of income for food than any other developed nation and it’s because of these underpaid illegal migrant workers toiling in our fields.

    There has to be a compromise somewhere that will allow the people who want to work for the lower wages into the country legally to pick the food we don’t want to pay too much for. Why is this so fucking hard to figure out?

    • emmdeeaych says:

      Why is it so hard for the land owning great grandchildren of slave owners to figure out how to make money without crushing the souls of others….? hmmmm,. let me ponder on that a while. The myopic view is probably not ALL the fault of their slave owning ancestors.

    • g0d5m15t4k3 says:

      $8/hr wouldn’t pay MY bills but what kind of nice apartment are unemployed prison parolees living in that this is too low? If I was out of work and had been searching for awhile, I’d be on top of this job.

      As SharpieSniffer points out, Americans want cheap and they don’t want immigrants (as a whole. I personally love Mexican food). Its difficult to balance the two. You either raise the price of the crops proportionately to raise pay for legal Americans. OR you stop pissing and moaning about immigrants and let them do your dirty work.

      Some people are willing to pay more for “American made”. Why is this any different?

      • codesuidae says:

        what kind of nice apartment are unemployed prison parolees living in that this is too low?

        The job involves sustained physical labor in a rural area in the Georgia summer, probably for 12 or so hours at a time. I suspect that these prison parolees are probably city folks who reject the option for that combination of labor, location, and, possibly, social engagement (specifically, the job is dominated by Mexican culture, unless the parolees are engaged in that culture already, it can be a signification psychological barrier in it’s own right).

        I could understand if they’d prefer to make less money, or make money via less legally acceptable means than go to the fields.

        • g0d5m15t4k3 says:

          Point taken. I wouldn’t want to go out of my way, either, for a grueling work day. If there are easier options, I’m sure they’d take them. But I’m sure that not every single parolee would decline the job either. Someone would bite. Someone will bite. Or the stuff will rot and farmers will jack the price up of the remaining crop.

          • codesuidae says:

            I think that if I were a parolee (fingers crossed against that eventuality), I might actually want this job.

            I suppose that it would make it easier to stay out of trouble and away from undesirable social influences, and would generate a baseline perspective from which I could appreciate more fully better paying and easier work.

            Heck, sometimes I wish for work like that now.

  12. Antinous / Moderator says:

    If there’s one thing that’s clear in this thread, it’s that most of the commenters don’t do the grocery shopping.

    • bcsizemo says:

      I do the vast majority and it’s rare I buy fruits.

      Strawberries/blue/blackberries maybe..if on sale..maybe

      It’s like buying tomatoes in the grocery store, why do I want to waste money on something that is picked before it’s ripe and therefore isn’t sweet or juicy.

      The most common fruit I’ll buy is grapefruit. Simply because my wife loves them.

    • IronEdithKidd says:

      What’s more clear is that no one here has attempted to live on $8/hr since the time that it was an OK wage (as in sometime in the mid-90′s when the minimum wage was stuck at $4.25). (I do all the grocery shopping, FWIW, so I’m painfully familiar with how much raw food prices have gone up in the last 4 years.)

      Codesuidae, that $8/hr you claim to have been living swankly on back in the day is around $20/hr in the year 2011. Which would be this year, the one we currently live in. Not some year long ago when gasoline cost about $1/gallon.

      • codesuidae says:

        that $8/hr you claim to have been living swankly on back in the day is around $20/hr in the year 2011.

        My point was that at around $12 hour in 2011, it wouldn’t be difficult to have a pretty decent standard of living, even assuming, as I personally have experienced at a similar income rate, family of three with a single income (no health insurance though).

        Toward this point, I already checked the inflation rate with a couple of sources, which is where my ‘$12 an hour’ comment is from.

        DollarTimes.com says:

        $8.50 in 1996 had the same buying power as $12.14 in 2011.

        http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

        and

        http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

        both concur with this calculation, indicating $12.24

        Also, get offa mah lawn.

        • shanealeslie says:

          I support a wife and two kids on $12/hour in downtown Toronto.
          It’s not that hard if you are frugal and not very materialistic.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Here’s why food prices are so high:

        - Gas goes up to $4 a gallon; food prices increase.
        - Gas goes back down to $3 a gallon; food prices stay the same.
        - Gas goes up to $4 a gallon again; food prices increase again.
        - Gas goes back down to $3 a gallon again; food prices stay the same again.

        Nothing to do with labor; everything to do with increasing profit margins.

  13. Anonymous says:

    cotton, I believe, had the same problem in the region a while back, and the same response.

  14. betatron says:

    I really don’t have a problem with it. Charge more for blueberries or let them rot in the fields then. I can live with either. Seems a bit odd that Nobody is willing to work for $8/hour to pick blueberries. I’d rather pick blueberries than Vidalias.

  15. Julien Couvreur says:

    Predictable result. Good intentions leading to significantly bad results.
    People (and politicians in particular) just can’t wish (or legislate) things the way they want, that’s not how reality works.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Many people comment that the farmers should just raise their prices to afford a good wage, but the original article notes that these farmers are in competition with other states which have cheaper labour costs (because they have more illegal workers).

    Say the farmer raises his wages, then raises his prices to compensate, how do you imagine the rest of the supply chain goes? The grocery stores (operating as I understand it under very tight margins) will buy produce from other cheaper states. Or does the store ignore cheaper states and only put in locally grown berries at more expensive prices. Will they voluntarily cut their profits? Will they voluntarily reduce their competitiveness (“don’t go to mega-mart A, their produce is so expensive, lets go to B instead”). Or do they pay for twice the shelf space to have both cheap out-of-state berries and expensive in-state berries. Which product do you think will move off the shelves? What could they be selling instead of expensive blueberries where they aren’t the ones who get the profit? No doubt many boing boingers are happy to spend more money on local products, but boing boingers are not representative of the general population.

    I’m not saying paying more for food is a bad idea, or a decent wage for farm workers. But I can’t see how this can work against such strong economic disincentives. A simplistic approach of ‘just raise local prices’ is working against a very strong economic tide. How can this be altered? For example the article points out that a reduction in illegal workers will require cooperation across many states.

  17. DAN_III says:

    This really isn’t at all unexpected. Remove the people who will do the “underpaid” hard job and the job just won’t be done… Period.

    @SharpieSniffer: You could have both… Just pay higher than $8/hour, keep the prices and there you go. The outcome would be less profitable farms, but not neccesarily unprofitable.

  18. Anonymous says:

    that is nonsense. I know lots of people who work for $8 or who are unemployed who would take a job for $8.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you kidding me? Yes sure people will work for 8$ per hour flipping burgers, taking orders or pushing a mop around. But are these same people willing to bake in the field picking crops doing actual hard labor jobs?? Very doubtful!

  19. mreddy1 says:

    I push shopping carts in the hot sun for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for $7.70 an hour. Don’t tell me 8 bucks an hour is low, because i’m not even making that.

    • Anonymous says:

      $8 an hour IS low. $7.70 is even lower. I imagine you’re not supporting too many kids on that income alone, are you? I’ll be first in line to say you should make more for an honest day’s labor.

    • Anonymous says:

      I push shopping carts in the hot sun for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for $7.70 an hour. Don’t tell me 8 bucks an hour is low, because i’m not even making that.

      Wow, so you must think you’re making plenty of money, then, right? Are you getting benefits in addition to that $7.70/hr? The migrant workers are not. Do you have a family to support? Many of the migrant workers do. If $8/hr working in a field is so great compared to $7.70/hr pushing shopping carts, why don’t you go get a job on a farm? Oh, and assuming mom and dad aren’t feeding you, can you afford to pay more for your food on your $7.70/hr? I hope so, because it looks like you might not have much choice.

  20. IronEdithKidd says:

    On the bright side, Georgia teenagers have job prospects this summer!

    • MrsBug says:

      IronEdith, that is EXACTLY what I was thinking. I would’ve done it when I was a kid…keep me from having to mow the lawn or hang out with my annoying younger sister. :D

      • IronEdithKidd says:

        As recently as the mid 90′s it was high school students and college students who did all the corn detasseling around Ames, IA. I can’t imagine Iowa was the only place where this used to be the norm.

        If you still want to get out of mowing, you can come down here at the end of August and help with our backyard tomato harvest ;) Only, we pay in fresh beer instead of cash.

        • Jonathan Badger says:

          In my day (the early 1980s), it was the *middle-schoolers* who did the corn detasseling. While you had to be 16 to work at a fast-food joint, 13-year olds were free to do farm work.

  21. Sharktopus says:

    Why does the headline say “anti-immigrant” where “anti-illegal-immigrant” is correctly used in the story?

    Also, whats more important. Fostering Georgia’s produce industry, or fighting illegal-immigration and all of the horrible things that come with it: slave labor, human trafficking, and identity theft.

  22. redhawk2007 says:

    There are plenty of people working for less than $8 an hour where I live. While this is less than a living wage, I find the idea that they paid migrant workers even this much or that they can’t get anyone else to work for this wage to be equally incredible.

    This sounds like a lot of manufactured whining aimed at getting their desperate, no questions asked slave labor pool back, rather than pay local workers decent wages to get the job done. Frozen blueberries are $4 a pound in my local store. I’d imagine a worker can easily pick $400 worth in an hour, but they can’t afford to pay anymore than dirt wages.

    Yeah right.

  23. Anonymous says:

    minimum wage in Hong Kong is 28HKD, or about 3.6USD, Hong Kong is also the eighth priciest city to live in in the world. You American illegal immigrants have it good.

  24. DWittSF says:

    It’s interesting that nobody has suggested that the farm owners take less profit. Why is that?

  25. aethelberga says:

    Why are prisoners allowed to turn down paid work?

    • Avram / Moderator says:

      Because slavery is illegal, and immoral.

    • Snig says:

      What Avram said, but also, would you want to take the first bite of food produced by criminals forced into slave labor?

    • codesuidae says:

      Parolees are not prisoners.

      Parolees may be required to maintain employment as part of the conditions of their parole.

      They are also subject to a range of other conditions that might make working a job like this problematic.

      For example, this is a job that requires a fair amount of travel. Parolees usually have restrictions on where they can be, and often need to be able to tell their probation officer where they can be found.

      They may also need to be able to contact their probation officers within some time limit. This could be difficult if they are out in arbitrary rural Georgia areas.

      Add up the complications and the potential for violations to send them back to prison, and 8 bucks an hour just isn’t worth it.

      Here is an example: http://www.wvdoc.com/wvdoc/ParoleServicesResources/StandardConditionsofParole/tabid/143/Default.aspx

  26. Anonymous says:

    I have heard there are a lot of crops in the United States we harvest by hand where in europe they use machines. Mostly because Illegal Immigrant Labor is cheaper than buying the machines. Perhaps this will start to change. Remember those farms where also not paying unemployment insurance, Workers Comp and taxes on those workers. The tax payers unwillingly where forced to pay for emergency room care and hospitalization for those laborers whenever they where sick or injured on the job.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Re: ‘So, how the hell does Europe pick crops while paying living wages? Once again, it works elsewhere – so why not here?”

    Newsflash: There are illegal immigrants in Europe. Also some aspects of agriculture are contracted out to eastern European countries where it can be done cheaply, as Eastern Europe is not part of the EU. It’s legal for something that was made outside of Italy to be labeled “made in Italy,” so don’t ASSume that all European countries are getting their crops picked and their goods made while paying a living wage.

    Fifty (50) million Europeans died in WWII and that population has never been replaced, so Europe no longer has a surplus serf population to send to the US as immigrants. (Yes, our ancestors were poor serfs.) In addition birth rates in the US declned after WWII because of increased prosperity, women working outside of the home, and of course access to birth control and legalized abortion.

    But guess what? The economy still needs workers! Unless you want our country to crumble (and I think some of you racists do), then we will need to increase immigration.

    If Georgia wants to block sound immigration policies, then the feds need to stop bailing you out and other stupid red states such as Arizona.

  28. codesuidae says:

    There has to be a compromise somewhere that will allow the people who want to work for the lower wages into the country legally to pick the food we don’t want to pay too much for.

    Just speculating here, but part of the reason we have minimum wage laws is because we have seen that people will accept work at rates below that which provides them acceptable living conditions. Now, certainly people should be able to decide for themselves what is acceptable living conditions, but at some point those conditions are so low that, if not managed, they begin to have impacts on those around them.

    I’m not suggesting that we prohibit people from working at these low rates though. I’m saying that if we’re going to do that, we need to be aware of the problems and put in place systems to mitigate the impacts in ways that minimize the costs of that lifestyle to others (for example, by providing primary healthcare services for these people away from emergency rooms, where they often end up for non-emergency services), and that help people who end up in such a lifestyle to transition beyond it if they have the desire and capacity to do so.

    In any case, as with any capitalistic system where the wages are very low, there probably isn’t a lot of talent around to find ways to optimize things for both profitability and humanity. The optimization strategies tend to be somewhat naive profit optimization.

  29. Garst says:

    I hope insurance companies refuse to pay out a dime, because this is a kin to setting your failing business on fire.

    And why are people talking about dropping minimum wage? Doing so would result in actual slave labor, because these companies “hiring” illegal immigrants because no one is going to jeopardize their well being working in fields for minimum wage for someone else. Dropping minimum wage will only encourage the behavior of these neo-slave drivers. What we need is people verifying that these people are on the up-and-up. Any company that doesn’t pay its workers enough to surpass the poverty line are not companies that treat their employees like people.

  30. Apreche says:

    If unemployment is so high, why aren’t there people willing to take this job? Did the farmer even try to hire people?

    For the record on immigration I think we should just let an unlimited number of people immigrate as long as they do the paperwork and don’t try to sneak vegetables through customs.

  31. jaydub says:

    Wait… all you readers and commenters are FOR illegal immigration?

    Forget about minimum wage for a minute. Forget about cheap food, and supply and demand, and for your dislike of Big Corporate America (or Big Corporate Farming, or captitalism, or whatever….). Georgia is trying to enforce the law of the land, to minimize/eliminate illegal (not legal) immigration, and it’s working. Now they’re not paying illegal immigrant sub-standard wages (or any wages, for that matter), and we’re enforcing the (very fair, reasonable) laws on the books

    So… what’s your beef?

    • diluded000 says:

      I’m not really ‘for illegal immigration’, I’m more against inflation and racism. If somebody lives here, and has taxes withheld from their check, and pays sales taxes, and rent, and though ineligible for federal benefits still manages to show up and work every day, then let ‘em work if they want to. My beef is that this law is morally wrong, and targeted to a single ethnicity.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s the catch. They aren’t paying taxes etc. They are generally being paid cash ‘under the table’ to avoid being found.

        That said, how about this compromise. The US sets up a limited period farm worker visa. Farms can sponsor workers or groups of workers to legally enter the country where they are put up in group housing and receive a small cash payment for their work. The farms are inspected to ensure that the housing is safe etc and that workers receive overtime etc as required. Farms are also required to have some kind of insurance in place in case of any accidents. The workers pay a set percent ‘income tax’ to fund all the oversite etc.

        At the end of the period if they are caught in the US they are treated as any other illegal aliens and sent home. They are also ineligible to receive a visa again. Any children born to female workers while they are in the US can remain if there is an adult citizen or resident alien willing to take them in, otherwise they go back with their parents. When they are 18 they can apply for resident alien status themselves.

        States make their taxes, farms get their workers, workers get their cash and some level of protection. Everyone wins.

    • Mujokan says:

      Thinking this legislation was stupid ≠ Thinking illegal immigration is great.

    • AnthonyC says:

      No, I’m for making it much much easier to immigrate legally. As it stands, immigration laws (and drug laws, and underage drinking laws) are already unenforcable without incarcerating a quarter of the population and deporting 3% of it.

      My beef is with the claim that such laws count as “(very fair, reasonable).” Also, because the obvious solution- enforcing the law and letting society see how bad an idea that is- depends on people caring about (and hearing about) a vulnerable population without a lot of public sympathy.

      As to those who say this is a good thing and will drive wages up: maybe, but not as long as imports are available from low wage countries. Farms here are just as likely to close as to be able to raise wages. And then a few years from new, when global economic development raises wages in those poor countries, the price of food is going to go way up- and by then the farmers here will have moved on to other careers, making it very difficult to reverse the process.

      And @#65: I don’t think $8/hr farm work and $8/hr clerical work are comparable. Someone doing clerical work is probably also looking for another, better job, or a permanent position. Someone doing farm work will likely be there forever. Also, farm labor is very hard on the body- they won’t be able to work as many years, and they certainly aren’t making enough to retire early. They’re likely to need quite a bit more medical care long before they’re 65. Violations of wage labor laws (people working 12 hour days are entitled to overtime pay for 4 of them) are also extremely likely, since even retailers employing legal residents try to skirt them.

  32. David says:

    Georgia, USA of all places should understand the perils of stealing labor. Slavery only worked until the immorality of slavery became conscious in this country. Jim Crow and profitable prisons only worked for about eighty years until the Civil Rights Movement restored some decency. Exploitation of immigrants, legal and illegal, has been a mainstay of the American economy throughout its existence. Now, in the midst of blaming the immigrants for our exploitation of them, people are seeing the real cost of stolen labor. Either you preserve human dignity through livable wages and social supports or you become a criminal, exploiting someone else. I’m again and again startled by the inability of people to think outside the dominant paradigm to find solutions. I think its possible to employ Americans and pay livable wages; investors and the wealthy need to explore the concept of how much is enough? Is it better for our economy to have 10 people making $80million annually or 800 people making $1million?

    • Anonymous says:

      To those people in the big high seats would feel better not with 800 making a million a year, or 10 making 80 million. They sleep better when it’s five banking 160 million a year., or 2 making 400 million. but they will ALWAYS want more. because to them, there is never enough money to pay for their needed 12 mansions, 3 private jets, 5 Rolls Royces, and 4 Ferraris.

      (sarcasm)
      And who would REALLY want to deprive these honest American’s of their right to own a new Ferrari? It’s just not quality to them unless everyone that makes what they own wears a Rolex or Breitling.
      (/sarcasm)

  33. Slightly Askew says:

    Good for them. No more end-runs around labor laws for the farmer. Hire documented workers, pay them a living wage, adjust prices accordingly if necessary. Some of you act like these farmers were the good guys, trying to provide jobs to the poor illegal immigrants, until the big bad government came and kicked them all out.

    Americans don’t *want* cheap food, Americans *expect* cheap food. We can reset our expectations so that a Vidalia onion should be $1.30/lb. instead of $0.99/lb. We do it all the time with gasoline; humans are magnificent rationalizers.

  34. Ipo says:

    Philo Taylor Farnsworth? Television pioneer?
    Didn’t drive tractors.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Stupid invisible hand would be a lot easier to work with if it was visible, I guess. Maybe it stepped out for a manicure.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I live and work in the California wine industry, and have worked in the fields for years. Here it is rare to hear of a farmer paying minimum wage. In fact, the prevaling wage I see for labor is approx $15 / hour. More is possible during harvest usually aaveraging $22/ hour for the best pickers and never below $15 / for the worst.

    The problem I see is that no matter the wage, very few people are willing to do the work.

    Now I would like to ask all of you who don’t have jobs but are not willing to work in the fields what I am doing wrong. I payed cash for a university education by working full time and going part time. In snow and triple degree heat. Seven days a week for nine years. I live in a county with very high unemployment and my boss tries in vain to find workers legal or otherwise. Because the is not a huge illegal population in our area we can’t even find them. Now I guess my question is: are all you people who wont work with me in the field better than me? You all must have a masters degree in biophysics, because only a lowly person with a BS in biology would work in a job like mine.

    Oh, and while going to school I had no help from family or friends, I payed my own rent, and did not have a credit card. I still don’t have any debt after graduation.

    How about we try a national exeriment. Let’s just make it less easy to get by while unemployed. It may be hard, but I don’t care about you or your weaknesses. I have weaknesses also, but I don’t get hand outs or help.

    Being mixed race I also find it sick that this whole thing seems to come down to race for so many. Just get a job, and stopp whining about there being no jobs. There are plenty, just hard ones.

    • Anonymous says:

      How about we try a national exeriment. Let’s just make it less easy to get by while unemployed.

      We already tried it. It turns out it sucks, and the rest of the world does much better by making it easier.

      It may be hard, but I don’t care about you or your weaknesses. I have weaknesses also, but I don’t get hand outs or help.

      Yes, you do. A social safety net indirectly helps everybody, whether they’re callous enough to disregard everyone else or not. And if you don’t care about me, why should I care about your preferences on this?

  37. Kimmo says:

    I’m hardly surprised people won’t work for $8 an hour; here in Oz I work as a lowly storeman/forkie, and I consider anything less than $25 an hour (US$26.50) an insult.

    Just the other day I knocked back a $22 an hour job cause it was ongoing (I’d prolly have accepted it on a temporary basis, cause I’m skint). It takes $27.50 an hour to make me happy to give up 5/7 of my days to folks getting rich off my back.

  38. jphilby says:

    I’ll ask again, like I do every time: are we going to keep letting the orangutangs fix our clocks?

    At this rate, under Bachmann the unemployed will be forcibly trucked to the farms.

  39. biznacho says:

    If there are 20,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia making an average of $8 an hour, and you were able to take 10% of those earnings in taxation, you would get just under $2.5 million dollars. That’s not very much. Double it and you’d get $5 million. Still not much.

    Somehow I think the big businesses and politicians have fooled people into thinking brown people from another country are a HUGE issue, when they really aren’t.

    I’d like to know how much in taxes Bank Of America was allowed to squeak out of (they paid $0 last year in taxes). How about Haliburton, Exxon, or others? I’m guessing in the billions. Why can’t they just pay their fair share? Then maybe the government would have enough money to enforce our laws, and pay legal workers a fair amount…

    • bcsizemo says:

      And now the replies are spiraling off into the depths of complaining about capitalism on a grand scale…

      Greed.

      It’s what America runs on. And until that changes you’ll still have CEO’s/big companies/government doing what they need to do (no matter how fair or unfair) to make their money and have their power.

      And on the idea that illegals just don’t account for missing taxes, what about welfare, children programs, wic, ebt, ect…

      All those social programs come from other people’s taxes.

      In all reality it would make more sense to have a super high sales tax and no state income taxes. That at least solves the missing money issue on the state level.

      The ironic thing is what the “future” is seen to be. I think most everyone on BB could paint a very similar future where things are fair, people are treated well, ect.. And I’m sure it would involve a good bit of social programs to make that all work, along with a healthy change in social paradigms that exist today. That’s not to say I want to see a socialist America, but I think everyone could agree that society/people needs to start working together for everyone’s benefit. Not just the benefit of your personal pocket book.

  40. Anonymous says:

    There already are commercially-available blueberry harvesters – my robotics professor designed one of the early models used for low-bush berries. The trick is to rotate the rake opposite to the motion of the vehicle, so the tines are hardly moving relative to the berries as they comb them off the stems. However, mechanical harvesters require up-front capital, unlike cheap labour.

  41. rebdav says:

    Bastard libertarian here. It is the over-regulation of everything but especially zoning that makes obtaining housing most peoples biggest expense unreachable for the bottom rung of car and bridge dwellers. Illegal aliens and their illegal battery farm housing is what happens when you over-regulate, the unintended consequence of making a place to live too expensive through humanely intended laws.
    Know why there are no American hobos working the field, it is not laziness, it is that the dollar that a field maker earns in the US and spends at home in Latin America is too hard to obtain for the buying power it has inside the US.
    If you ban the migrant illegal field worker the crops will of course rot because most Americans don’t know how to find an illegal inexpensive housing solution cheap enough to survive working for those wages.
    Of course the bailouts where housing prices would have reset and allowed people to buy and rent at reasonable prices would have hurt the banks whose superhuman corporate civil rights let them give almost unlimited campaign bribe cash to people like Obama, Biden, and Mccain.

  42. ackpht says:

    Work to change the law, or live with it. Those are your choices.

  43. catbeller says:

    So, how the hell does Europe pick crops while paying living wages? Once again, it works elsewhere – so why not here?

    • ocschwar says:


      So, how the hell does Europe pick crops while paying living wages? Once again, it works elsewhere – so why not here?

      Europe is a big place, and some of it does depend on itinerant labor at harvest time. Italy is notorious for that problem.

      That said, a couple observations about Europe:

      The farming there is diversified. Very diversified. Unlike America, with huge corporate farms devoted to one crop, European family farms and farming villages grow lots of crops. So the harvests are spread out, and local laborers do the peaches, then the berries, et cetera, without migrating. In America, you might have a single valley in CA that grows the country’s entire crop of spinach or what have you, so you have two weeks out of the year when you bring in lots of labor.

      The problem is decades of USDA policy that explicitly aimed to push farmers to “get big or get out.”

  44. Anonymous says:

    everyone of those georgia morons from the gov on down who supported this bill should roll up their sleeves and get to pickin!
    this is what happens when you elect racists to political office. they pass laws based on bigotry and do not realize the errors of their ways until AFTER the damage has been done!

    if this is georgia’s largest industry, they should have known what would happen. but they didn’t because of the hate they have for non-whilte illegals in this country.
    they should all go down there and pick the fruit & veggies FREE OF CHARGE for there actions! hate has consequences!

  45. an0nymous says:

    For the record I don’t believe that folks aren’t going to pick for 8$ an hour. Heck, for that matter I don’t really believe the farmers were paying that.
    But, if this was the consequence? Good. Means that 8$ an hour isn’t enough. Uncontrolled inputs were screwing up the supply/demand curve.
    I’m sure following emancipation there were similar stories,in time they’ll adjust to the new reality.

    And out of curiosity, diluded, what changes to the law would you propose that would remove the spectre of racism for you while still preventing “undocumented workers” from diluting the labor pool?

  46. Anonymous says:

    “Jobs Americans won’t do” is always a fallacy. The pay just has to be right, that’s all.

    If they raise the wages above $8 – how high they’ll have to go is a function of the labor market, pure and simple – they’ll have legal labor and/or Americans working the fields. And yes, the price of this produce will go up for consumers as well, as it should, IMO. That’s the market. Don’t like it? Grow your own.

  47. ln2961 says:

    “We’re going to reap what we have sown, even if the farmers can’t.”

    Brilliant ending to the article.

  48. awjtawjt says:

    What??? There’s no mechanical blueberry picker? WTF???

  49. klossner says:

    The summary here says “the state’s probationed prisoners have turned it down,” but that’s not true. The article says only that the governor proposes that farmers hire unemployed criminal probationers, and goes on to speculate that they might turn down the jobs.

  50. catbeller says:

    The South ran on forced prison labor for over a hundred years- and on slave labor for a couple of centuries before that.. We’ve been subsidizing our food producers with de facto slavery for hundreds of years. Yet somehow other countries manage to feed people and support farmers without the whip or prison guard or importing almost-free workers.

    We’ve believed in letting the market set the labor price – but the market always finds a way to find zero or near zero-cost workers, even if it has to manufacture them (new criminal laws and harsh sentences) or imports them from overpopulated countries. Or just kidnaps them.

    This is why we use governments and laws to regulate food production. Or should. European Union countries do, and somehow everyone gets paid well enough, people can buy food at prices they can afford, and farmers get subsidized – not thrown to the bankers – so they don’t fear being ruined if the rains don’t come this year.

  51. RingMod76 says:

    Two things to note (I live in metro Atlanta and do public policy work, so I’ve been following this):

    1) $8 an hour is the base pay. They receive more if they can pick a certain amount per hour; apparently good, experienced workers (who are fast, know what they’re doing AND can take the tough conditions) can effectively double their hourly rate.

    2) Understand that, under the law, the police are allowed to check the immigration status of ANYONE they suspect of being in the country illegally. Of course this drives away those who are illegally residing in the US, but it has a corollary effect (externalities, anyone?) of making Georgia far less appealing for LEGAL immigrants, who make up a not-insignificant portion of migrant field workers.

  52. Anonymous says:

    All of the crops mentioned here can be harvested with mechanical means. These machines do not use welfare, educational resources, emergency medical resources…….these farmers need to come up off some profit and modernize. That would actually make the food cheaper to produce. But they would have to reduce the massive profits they make on the crops to do this.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Obviously many out-of shape, out-of-work American 20 and 30-somethings should be working the fields! But Americans need to get re-accustomed to outdoor work. Management/overseers will need to create new systems of *control* at the workplace. Imagine all the impromptu “breaks” local Georgian teenagers would like to take to check messages on their IPhones. People will want to leave early sometimes because “this is a free country”, etc. Stuff like that. Some TV glamour has been attached to the back-breaking work of crab-fishing via cable shows like “Deadliest Catch”. Thats the solution! Make an MTV reality show about blueberry picking- salt the cast with some tattooed and pierced “hotties”, a few lovable goofballs,some rugged Survivor types. Then start a rumour that there is free love going on in the blueberry labor camps. It could be a big blueberry scented Summer of Love over here!

  54. Glindie says:

    Apparently cost of living is more in Georgia than in Arkansas, or something? $8/hour is the base pay for temp skilled clerical labor around here…

    I’d kill for an $8/hour job.

    Anybody know how much it is for a bus to Georgia from NW Arkansas? Hell, I could probably find some legal immigrants around here to split the cost with me and take my car…

    • NicoNicoNico says:

      You’re having trouble finding an $8/hr job in NW Arkansas? The minimum wage is $7.25, so it’s not that higher. I’m honestly surprised that you can’t find a job like that, especially since I live there. I have a friend working a factory job in Springdale for $12/hr, maybe you could get a job there? It’s 8 hours a day, plus a 12 hour day extra twice a month, which is much more desirable than the 12 hour days you would be working as a farm laborer. Are you having trouble finding a job, period? I’ve seen signs asking people to apply, as long as you’re willing to work something like fast food. Are you rural? That may be the issue.

      By the way, the cost of a bus, if you order online, is $128.70, if you go out of Fayetteville and arrive in Atlanta. It’s not that expensive, if you’re longing for backbreaking farm work.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Don’t forget “mind-numbing,”, as in “backbreaking, mind-numbing farm work”.

        OTOH, Milo Farnsworth was inspired with his great idea while driving a tractor plowing a field, was he not?

  55. gracchus says:

    Why does the headline say “anti-immigrant” where “anti-illegal-immigrant” is correctly used in the story?

    Mainly because the law in question wasn’t really driven by opposition to slave labour, human trafficking, and identity theft (all of which are or can be covered by different Federal and state laws), but by general anti-immigrant sentiment amongst the nativist/xenophobe Teagbagger types and the desire of certain Georgia politicians to pander to them.

    Also, keep in mind that “the immigration issue” is a misnomer; depending on who’s discussing it, it’s more accurately called a “labour issue” or a “racism issue.” This case hilariously demonstrates that fact.

    Georgia is trying to enforce the law of the land, to minimize/eliminate illegal (not legal) immigration, and it’s working.

    Enforcing the law of the land in this case is the bailiwick of the Feds — DHS/ICE in particular. Georgia is “helping” by creating an atmosphere of targetted authoritarianism where anyone who has the wrong skin colour — illegal immigrant, native-born or otherwise — will feel less comfortable, just as Arizona has done with its “Ihre papiere, bitte” law.

    That said, no real beef — just lots of lulz at the pickle these Georgia politicians have put themselves in. But then, choosing between pandering to corporate greedheads on the one hand and to racist Know-Nothings on the other has been the GOP’s dilemma for almost half a century.

  56. Anonymous says:

    This is HILARIOUS.

    Mostly because I’m not American, but just as much because I don’t pay US income taxes. Because every Georgian and probably others federally will be eating the results of this stupid miscalculation next year in their taxes. Those farmers will get a bailout, you’ll pay for it AND the cost of onions, blueberries, etc will be higher in stores because that expected supply never reached them.

    Isn’t it great how one little law in a state you don’t live in or have a vote just cost you money, US citizen?

  57. SamSam says:

    If the cost of producing blueberries is too high for anyone to pay for, then we shouldn’t be producing blueberries.

    Or, at least, not until someone creates a blueberry gin.

    I’ve been trying to hold to the same standards on meat: I won’t eat the overly-cheap, battery farmed meat, as it’s a cruel way to produce it and the price doesn’t reflect the actual cost. I usually buy more expensive Whole Foods organic meat — and so have eaten less meat as a result — but have so far shied away from the three-times-as-expensive meat from my local farmer’s market, even though I know it probably reflects what it ought to really cost to raise a cow from birth humanely, and then slaughter and butcher it.

    All that said: if there are people willing to work for a wage, and there are people willing to pay that wage, then (apart from the fact that we should make sure the wage is reasonable and not slavery) it’s silly that there are political barriers preventing the wage-seekers from working for the wage-payers.

    • codesuidae says:

      If the cost of producing blueberries is too high for anyone to pay for, then we shouldn’t be producing blueberries.

      Or, at least, not until someone creates a blueberry gin.

      Why would someone spend the time, effort, and money to develop, produce, and market such a machine if there were no one producing the berries?

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      “….not until someone creates a blueberry gin.”

      ….that seems easy enough to do:

      http://cafe.comebackalive.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=44230

      …oh, you must mean the other kind of gin.

  58. GDL says:

    If I may weigh in on the comments expressing surprise about the fact that even the probationed prisoners have turned down the opportunity to take these positions: I think this has less to do with wages and more to do with the history of Black people, especially in the South. An unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of these prisoners are Black, and these men would sooner take a bullet than work fields for a White man in Georgia.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the real issue is that if you take 20,000 workers out of the system all at once, it’s logistically difficult to fill that many positions in a short period of time. Did anybody think of that? Of course not. We’ll just get some more stupid reactionary legislation as a result. Hooray.

  60. EvilSpirit says:

    If unemployment is so high, why aren’t there people willing to take this job?

    Perhaps people would rather spend time looking for a job that pays the bills than working at one that doesn’t.

  61. VICTOR JIMENEZ says:

    Let me drop an absurd idea:

    -What if the US citizens just pay the real “legal” price for the goods they consume?

    • jonathanpeterson says:

      ding, ding, ding.

      And for all the commenters who think that those $8/hr jobs are desirable. It is 12 hours days of 90+ degree, high humidity field work in rural Georgia.

      The wages aren’t even the issue – look at a map – Georgia is BIG. Most of those jobs are 10-45 miles away from any kind of rental housing. The only way to do that is as most illegals have stuff 6 guys in a crap pickup and ride 60+ miles a day between work and the crap apartment or trailer you share with 6-10 others. And even THEN it’s seasonal work with no benefits so you’ll need to do something ELSE for the 6 months out of the year that there ISN’T a crop to be harvested.

      The good news for Georgia farmers is that we pay our schoolteachers so little that season picking work is starting to look like a good way to supplement income.

      • Brainspore says:

        The wages aren’t even the issue – look at a map – Georgia is BIG. Most of those jobs are 10-45 miles away from any kind of rental housing.

        Excellent and oft-overlooked point. Even those Americans who are willing to do back-breaking, mind-numbing work for $8 an hour are highly unlikely to regularly relocate and/or commute vast distances for the opportunity to do so. There’s a reason most people who harvest crops are called “migrant workers.”

  62. Anonymous says:

    I think most of you are overlooking the migratory nature of the agricultural workers. It’s not minimum wage for 40 hours a week all year. It’s piece work for a few weeks. Then you have to move North to the next job. Georgia has screwed itself by causing the existing migrant labor to go around them. The farmers can’t raise their prices to compensate because they are competing with other states that don’t enforce the laws. The notion that unemployed, 50 year old, white collar workers are going to move to the middle of nowhere and break their backs for a pittance so someone on a blog won’t call them lazy is ridiculous. A rational system would provide work visas to laborers to be here legally. Get a visa, get on a bus, work for a few months and go home. Repeat next year. Bush and McCain even discussed such a system before they were screamed down.

  63. EricT says:

    Isn’t farming heavily subsidized by the government for occasions just like this?

  64. Anonymous says:

    If it isn’t made/produced/tended by slaves in other countries, it is produced by abused and invisible illegal immigrant labour domestically.

    America is unsustainable but through such unethical and violent practices. Even then, the tolerances are getting perilously tight. Addicted to luxury and comfort it really cannot afford. The debt, the borrowing, the exploitation of vulnerable populations domestic and remote – how long can they ride this high?

  65. donotclickjim says:

    If millions of crops are rotting in a field then the farmer is a bad businessman and he deserves to go out of business. Charge $1 per person (or for free) to pick as many blueberries as they want. At least they then wouldn’t be rotting. But this sounds like it is more profitable for the farmer to let them rot.

    • Ipo says:

      Haha! City people like you are funny. Isn’t it a bit naive to think you can find customers in a rural area that will pay to harvest your crop? What would keep them from serving themselves without paying you, as it has always been? Ever been to the sticks, the boonies, hinterland, outback? It isn’t really densely populated.

    • codesuidae says:

      Charge $1 per person (or for free) to pick as many blueberries as they want.

      And get sued when someone gets hurt on your property? Have to develop new business practices for dealing with retail sales?

      And who are these people who are going to drive out to a farm in BFE in the heat of a Southern summer so they can fight through thorny brambles and pay to pick blueberries? They can get a nice package of Argentinian blueberries off the shelf at the supermarket for less than the gasoline to get to the farm.

      I suppose you’d get some takers just for the novelty, but it sure isn’t going to significantly reduce your losses, and it will come with a whole basket of new problems.

      • Brainspore says:

        Charge $1 per person (or for free) to pick as many blueberries as they want.

        The crop would be rotten by the time you could put up the signs that said “All you can pick berries: just 67 miles off exit 238 in the heart of Heatstroke county!”

        • codesuidae says:

          Indeed. It can take years to build a pick-it-yourself business, and around here those usually involve corn mazes, pumpkin cannons, and piglet races.

  66. Anonymous says:

    The problem is with the growers hiring illegals and the government looking the other way. How about $16 – $25 an hour like many large business’s pay? Simply put good wages equal good workers. Why do the growers believe they don’t have to compete in the same market as other business’s?

  67. joeposts says:

    Ah, so this is what the new economy will look like. I always wondered what would happen when scraping the bottom of the barrel eventually gouges out the barrel bottom.

  68. blueelm says:

    Now now, once the standard of living and healthcare drops enough in the US and education has plummeted we will have enough desperate starving human beings to work and sleep in ditches for pennies! It’ll be like Grapes of Wrath. Come on, this is how it’s supposed to be in the US. Deep down you know this.

    /snark

  69. Anonymous says:

    If Georgia farming is anything like Irish farming, the farmer owners wage has been going down for years along with the price of food on the shelf while the supermarkets profits have been going up.

    The subsidies payed to keep farming going in Europe are so in case of war there’ll be some food grown locally when the freight ships are being sunk in the middle of the Atlantic. Or some reasoning like that.

  70. Anonymous says:

    Antinous – that’s completely disingenuous. Food prices are still high because the fundamentals changed. Ethanol isn’t the only driver of food scarcity. There were huge failed harvests in the world over the past 8 months and increased demand from Asia for meat and other foods.

    No one’s thus far mentioned that the law takes effect next year, rather than this one, which still gives Georgia time to backpedal. In that sense, that people are avoiding it is a good lesson the economic consequences now, rather than later.

  71. ZippySpincycle says:

    Clearly, the answer is to repeal minimum wage laws.

    (Prediction: we will soon have at least one libertarian here patiently explaining why that’s just good sense)

    • Anonymous says:

      Well…heh, right. Why should people who won’t work for $8/hr, work for $6/hr? Or $4? Repealing the minimum wage laws would do nothing whatsoever. Which is what a libertarian would say. Wages, in the end, are dictated by the market, not dictated to the market.

      @Dan_III: “Nonviable” means “Unprofitable” means “Will lose money”. Will you volunteer to run a farm at a loss? At least until you run out of money? Georgia would be happy to have you, I’m sure.

    • Finnagain says:

      Perhaps tax cuts for the wealthy might help.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please make it clear that you are talking about the state and not the republic of, I had to read the paragraph about 5 times before I understood what was going on.

    • donotclickjim says:

      Present. Or cut entitlements. I find it odd that probationed prisoners have it good enough that they can snub their noses at a job that pays $8. Either there is less unemployment than being told or people are finding a way to live comfortably enough that they don’t need a job.

      I would have preferred immigration reform (amnesty) than enforcement (which is a call for even more government) which I’m obviously against.

  72. hooch66 says:

    Perhaps if they paid workers a fair wage in this country, and wages kept up with inflation, companies could afford to charge prices in line with cost to produce the goods.

    This is also why Bush, etc didn’t really crack down on illegal labor. They knew their big business buddies greatly rely on cheap labor.

  73. unclemike says:

    Wow, if everyone who left a comment here saying they’d LOVE to have such a job as picking blueberries in the hot sun for $8 an hour actually goes to Georgia and does it, why, their problem would be solved lickety split! Let’s go!

    *crickets*

  74. Anonymous says:

    That’s how it works. Blueberries are a labor intensive crop. The only way to get them cheaply into stores is to pay the pickers a pittance. Maybe now someone will invent a machine to do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s the harvester:

      http://www.littauharvester.com/

      I work with these farmers, and they are all struggling to keep things going. Farmers don’t get days off, they don’t get sick days, they work 18+ hours EVERY day to feed you and I.

      Got food? Thank a FARMER!

  75. Anonymous says:

    I remember a ranch owner saying how every year, a handful of young white/black/latino men apply and are hired. And without fail, they quit within 2-3 hours. HOURS!!! “The work is too hard,” they complain. Yet people still bitch and complain that these migrants are stealing our jobs.

  76. phisrow says:

    Luckily, Georgia has has boldly addressed the issue of a sudden shortage of agricultural peons before, when the War of Northern Aggression cut off their slave supply: If you can’t get free people to work for the wages you feel like offering, you simply criminalize broader swaths of behavior until you have a sufficient supply of imprisoned labor, which you then rent out to interested corporations at Everyday Low Prices…

    I’m totally sure that no state legislators would stoop so low as to be ‘tough on crime’ and ‘pro-business’ by reviving this invidious policy…

  77. Anonymous says:

    I just wish there more gleaners societies around to salvage from the fields for the food bank. That’s the sadder thing is that food is left to rot rather than letting the hungry take it. Maybe specific tax benefits or something for farmers that allow gleaners onto their fields.

  78. MAS says:

    Well, clearly the minimum wage laws need to be changed to incorporate different minimum wages for different jobs or dropped for all.
    Having laws that are selectively enforced is the road to hell that is paved with good intentions.


    Welcome to the USA. Former home of the US Constitution.

    • tad604 says:

      Are you being facetious?

      The wages being offered are greater than the current minimum wage, and yet still no americans will do the work.

      The minimum wage law has almost no bearing on low skilled workers. It’s effectively dead.

    • MeNotYou says:

      I don’t get your logic. The article said prisoner’s on probation won’t even work in the fields for the very low $8 per hour. How is lowering the minimum wage going to solve the problem? The real resolution? Temporary visas for migrant workers to work the fields legally. A stamp in their passport permitting them to come here for a few months out of the year to work. Why not?

  79. Ipo says:

    One state to the north of Georgia, Mexicans worked for as little as 3 bucks per hour just a few years ago. $ 8.00, not likely, that is more than legal farmworkers got paid.
    So much disdain for “illegal” Native Americans.
    Mexicans are Injuns, yer know?

  80. Anonymous says:

    Did state officials actually do the “damage” or was it the farm businesses who have been breaking labor laws since before the state immigration legislation that are responsible? Hmmm…

  81. jgs says:

    Huh, and I thought nothing could get me to say anything nice about anti-immigration laws. But if they could actually be enacted uniformly such that (as hooch66 kinda says) producers paid living wages and priced their products according to their real cost, well, that would be a good thing.

    (Although in that not-gonna-happen utopia, there’s the possibility that producers would move to another country instead.)

  82. Anonymous says:

    I never said I wouldn’t say I told you so, so… I told you so.

    • xian says:

      I never said I wouldn’t say I told you so, so… I told you so.

      Let it be known, on June 22nd, 2011, Anon has told us so.

  83. Diodeus says:

    In Soviet Russia entire urban populations where seconded to take in various harvests. Most didn’t even know what the correct plant looked like. This makes Bike to Work Week look like a vacation.

  84. Pixelmatsch says:

    Had to read half the post to realise you meant the US state and not the country.

  85. Anonymous says:

    Maybe should set up an exchange program. We send them our sick, poor and elderly and we get their young with strong backs, etc.

    Would be so much cheaper to care for sick and the elderly in a country where pay is measured in $/day than $/hr.

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