portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

labor

WFJ I'm in the wrong business. How a grower stabs himself in the back

How much money does a farmer make from a labor camp. An Example.
The Farmworker Walk for Justice(WFJ) visited a labor camp on Wednesday the 20th of June. The walkers were invited into the camp to talk to a grower from Willamette Organics who fielded questions about the camp and his position as a grower in the actual food production chain. His words can be heard on this site and he does bring up his point of view and argue his position with pride and determination. However he did default it a bit with the information he provided the members about the camp.

To start with we will review this "dingy" collection of basic structures and the ONE communal bathroom. There are 4 structures for workers, each structure has 4 living sections, each section is a two "Bunkroom" room space with 4 people in one room and three in another. We were not allowed in the units, this is from the information he told us and from peeking in the windows. Each unit houses seven men and is uninsulated. There are no laundry facilities and visitors are not allowed without permission. Just to reiterate this point there is ONE communal bathroom. Now counting on my fingers my calculations are 112 men, because it is full during the picking season. Each man pays $120. $120 multiplied by 112 is $13,440.

The grower later lamented over his position as a farmer trying to make it in a harder and harder market. Yet he makes $13,440 each month when they are harvesting. Here's a hint for our grower find some cheap crop which you can continually harvest and break even. And live off the profits from substandard housing. This is just an example of the admitted obvious exploitation of workers. PCUN representatives informed us that workers can be evicted for talking to organizers or having suspect guests. Considering the position of many migrant workers especially these men who are presumably alone here and do not come in contact with greater society. (the camp is close to the metropolis of Unionvale which cannot have more than 50 residents). The majority of these men it would seem could be easily exploited and abused without outsiders knowing because of their immigration status, language barrier and the limited funds due to constant meager remittions to their homeland.

So is this Grower in the wrong business, maybe but his moonlighting as a slumlord seems to provide adequate compensation. Why do you think NORPAC refuses to come to the table on the subject of just workers rights? There's money to be made in exploitation and some Willamette Valley Farmers know this well.

PS. Pat the Hat please post pictures of this camp for me.

Point of clarification 23.Jun.2001 06:39

Jeanine Malito dsoper@clipper.net

Hello. I was at the camp with the walk, and standing pretty close, so I heard well what was said. I understood that the farmer was NOT the owner of the camp. Thanks for covering the Walk!


wrong pictures? 25.Jun.2001 08:20

Jeanine

Hello again. I think those are photos of the wrong camp ... Thanks some more!