Immigration, Labor, Legislation, Opinion/Editorial/Commentary, Undocumented Workers

Farmers Need Experienced Workers

From CullmanTimes.com, 20 Oct 2011.

One purpose of the new Alabama immigration law was to provide more employment opportunities for legal residents of the state.

The opportunities have certainly been plentiful, but the verdict on the result of this political plan remains murky as farmers continue to complain about the ability of Alabamians to harvest from the fields.

Jerry Spencer, chief executive of the Birmingham-based Grow Alabama that sells and promotes produce, actually stepped forward to recruit unemployed U.S. citizens to harvest tomatoes and clean the fields near Birmingham. He offered free transportation and pay for their time. Two weeks into the effort, he said the program is a failure.

Spencer asserted that jobless resident Americans lacked the physical stamina and the mental toughness to see the job through. He doesn’t see much hope that a new state program to fill the jobs will fare much better.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley calls such claims insulting to Alabamians, noting that the state’s program has signed up about 200 people, but so far only one employer has sought a worker.

There are certainly people willing to do the work, but training and durability are real issues in the fields of Alabama farms. Spencer found that most of the 50 people he hired lasted two or three days at the most, while one worker stayed with the program for the last two weeks.

Concerns from some of the workers recruited complaints that the employment interfered with disability or unemployment benefits. Interesting. But there is also the issue that much of this work is seasonal and not a long-term answer to unemployment.

The idea of putting Alabamians back to work is always worthwhile. Many lawmakers who voted for the immigration bill had that point in mind, but the timing and some areas of the legislation were not thoroughly researched.

The law took effect during harvest, which frightened away many of the undocumented laborers who had the skills and background to get the work done. Many of the Alabamians attempting to help with harvest simply do not have the knowledge to work quickly or accurately. In time, if enough people are willing to take seasonal work, this could change.

Evidence continues to mount against the immigration law. The state needs to drop its position and seek a remedy that favors the farming industry. Alabamians need the job opportunities that have greater long-term potential. That’s the issue.

Source: CullmanTimes.com, “Farmers need experienced workers” 20 Oct 2011.

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