LatinaLista — The argument that undocumented immigrants do the work most Americans don’t want to do doesn’t apply to the Gulf Oil spill — yet.
The Pensacola office of Workforce EscaRosa, an unemployment agency that serves the Florida region of beaches that find themselves littered with tar balls, fielded over 5,000 applications from unemployed people willing to work 12-hour shifts, lift more than 40 pounds, and work in the sun, heat and rain picking up gooey, sticky tar while dressed in long sleeves, long pants and sneakers or steel-toed boots covered in yellow plastic.
Naturally the big draw to the job was the $18/hour salary. And though it is a labor intensive job under the oppressive coastal sun, clean-up workers are so closely monitored in their exposure to the sun that beachgoers complain clean-up workers spend more time resting under umbrellas than cleaning up the shore.
However, the true show of commitment from these workers to their new jobs will soon be tested once the results of how two clean-up workers died and what are the long-term consequences of being exposed to toxic vapors which have already hospitalized more than 70 clean-up workers in Louisiana.
Will these workers decide $18/hour is worth the risk to their health and quality of living in the future to forge on and scoop those ugly tar balls off the beaches? Would they feel the same way if it was $7.25/hour?
The same toxic dangers and labor intensive work these clean-up workers are subjected to are shared with another industry — farming. But unlike the $18/hour salary, farm laborers, who are mainly immigrant laborers, must toil for minimum wage.
And unlike the hawkish monitoring of clean-up workers’ time in the sun, no one is doing that for the farmworker. In fact, immigrant farm laborers suffer far more abuses from their employers for far less pay and no one seems to look out for their best interests or health.
So, the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) thinks it’s time for a change among the farmworker population. Today, they are launching a new kind of campaign bound to turn heads and create a little confusion.
Instead of advocating outright for better conditions for immigrant farm laborers, the focus of the campaign is to give their jobs away — to unemployed U.S. citizens.
The “Take Our Jobs” campaign is a tongue-in-cheek approach to the serious problem of immigration. The focus of the campaign is “hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers.”
The idea behind it all is to highlight the need for a legal workforce which can only be achieved through immigration reforms — without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, UFW offers farm workers who are “ready to train citizens and legal residents who wish to replace immigrants in the fields,” and encourages Members of Congress to refer their constituents to vacant farm worker positions.
UFW has locations across the country where Members of Congress can direct their constituents willing to do work on large-scale farms. Employers will be on hand at each site to answer questions, meet prospective employees and assist in the application process. All who are interested or unemployed and are legal residents or U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply.
Noting that Congress and the general public may not pay much attention to the campaign, organizers plan a July 8 appearance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to raise awareness.
No one is worried that unemployed Americans will snatch up jobs that require intense labor, few water and bathroom breaks and exposure to the elements and toxic pesticides for $7.25/hour.
The real worry is that Congress will still think that immigration reform can be put off for another day, legislative season or administration.