From The New York Times:
John Harold found himself short of workers to harvest his corn and onions after he decided to try to hire more local residents and fewer foreign laborers for his 1,000-acre farm.
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: October 5, 2011
OLATHE, Colo. — How can there be a labor shortage when nearly one out of every 11 people in the nation are unemployed?
That’s the question John Harold asked himself last winter when he was trying to figure out how much help he would need to harvest the corn and onions on his 1,000-acre farm here in western Colorado.
The simple-sounding plan that resulted — hire more local people and fewer foreign workers — left Mr. Harold and others who took a similar path adrift in a predicament worthy of Kafka.
The more they tried to do something concrete to address immigration and joblessness, the worse off they found themselves.
“It’s absolutely true that people who have played by the rules are having the toughest time of all,” said Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado.
Mr. Harold, a 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran who drifted here in the late ’60s, has participated for about a decade in a federal program called H-2A that allows seasonal foreign workers into the country to make up the gap where willing and able American workers are few in number. He typically has brought in about 90 people from Mexico each year from July through October.
This year, though, with tough times lingering and a big jump in the minimum wage under the program, to nearly $10.50 an hour, Mr. Harold brought in only two-thirds of his usual contingent. The other positions, he figured, would be snapped up by jobless local residents wanting some extra summer cash.
“It didn’t take me six hours to realize I’d made a heck of a mistake,” Mr. Harold said, standing in his onion field on a recent afternoon as a crew of workers from Mexico cut the tops off yellow onions and bagged them. (more…)
Filed under: immigrant community, Migrant Workers | Tagged: Colorado, corn, farmers, farms, H-2A, immigration, joblessness, labor demand, minimum wage, onions, Representative Lamar Smith, Senator Michael Bennet | Leave a Comment »