Primitivo Santiago Gutiérrez works in the Bakersfield harvesting apricots and some time it has been noticed that many farmers are offering slightly higher wages for their work. The reason: there are fewer workers available for crops.
“Before gangs had 30 to 50 people and now see no more than 20 to 24,” says Gutierrez, who works in the field in the U.S. since 1997 and is a native of Oaxaca. “For some time I have noticed this part that we provide $ 9 to $ 9.50 an hour, when before giving just the minimum,” he says.
The Oaxacan not has documents, and it has worked for 17 years in the fields of California. If I could “papers”, she says, would visit her family in Mexico but would continue to work in the field. “I come from this work, was born in the countryside and it is my pride,” she says.
The reduced availability of farm workers is a reality backed by studies and research and has several origins: until recently, the state of the domestic economy was a big factor, but the best economy in Mexico, the largest border protection and the lack of flexibility and movement of labor are some of those reasons.
Things are no longer equal
Both things have changed people like Salvador Torres, of Watsonville, before the economic crisis was a carpenter and worked hard at building, and spent seven years in agriculture. “I thought it was going to be for six months and took all those years, but it is clear that many ranchers will not be able to harvest because no workers,” Torres said.
Juan Lozano, 23, and works by cutting the mustard field, says that many people who work in the field has been deported. “Before he had one to beg to get a job, but now you insist them to you,” he said.
Teresa Amezcua is 61 and still working in the field, although it is privileged with a union contract that provides benefits like health insurance. However, she knows many people who have left the work in the field, following the crops, to pursue anything else, including street vending. “It is dangerous to move from here to there and no work all year in most places,” she said. Although many farmers echoed this complaint is made, the Union of Rural Workers (UFW for short) considers that this problem would be much lower if the working conditions in the country improve.
“What happens is that there are no extra workers as before. Prior had to spare and did what they wanted with them,” said Armando Eleves, national vice president of UFW. “Not so much now, but if the shortage was so severe would raise wages and improve conditions. But that is not happening.”
Some farmers reported that they do receive slightly higher wages, but others said that “in principle we offer more and then it’s taken away,” Lozano said.