From The Associated Press:
By Jay Reeves
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jerry Spencer had an idea after Alabama’s tough new law against illegal immigration scared Hispanic workers out of the tomato fields northeast of Birmingham: Recruit unemployed U.S. citizens to do the work, give them free transportation and pay them to pick the fruit and clean the fields.
After two weeks, Spencer said Monday, the experiment is a failure. Jobless resident Americans lack the physical stamina and the mental toughness to see the job through, he said, and there’s not much of a chance a new state program to fill the jobs will fare better.
Gov. Robert Bentley has called such claims “almost insulting” to Alabamians. The new program has signed up about 200 people who want to work, but so far only one employer has sought one worker, the administration said.
“There are people willing to do the jobs,” said Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations.
But Spencer said that of more than 50 people he recruited for the work, only a few worked more than two or three days, and just one stuck with the job for the last two weeks.
“It’s pretty discouraging,” said Spencer, chief executive of the Birmingham-based Grow Alabama, which sells and promotes produce grown in the state.
Tomato farmer Helen Jenkins agrees that there is a problem filling a labor void she said was created by the new law, parts of which have been blocked by federal courts.
“It’s just not working,” said Jenkins, who grows tomatoes on Chandler Mountain, near Gadsden. “You can’t get the (American) workers out here to do the work that the Hispanics were doing. They’re just not capable.” (more…)
Filed under: Alabama, immigrant community, Law Enforcement, Migrant Workers, Wages | Tagged: farmers, Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal, Gov. Robert Bentley, Grow Alabama, Jerry Spencer, Tara Hutchison, tomato fields, unemployed | 2 Comments »