I admit it: I was shocked this week during a visit to the Farmworkers' Center here in El Paso. I learned some things about the guys who pick the raw ingredients for our spaghetti sauce and salsa. Maybe you didn't know, either, that: ***About half of all ag workers in New Mexico earn about $5,850 per year. Agricultural workers are among the poorest of the working poor. Paid by the bucket, a worker would have to pick thousands of peppers per hour to make even close to minimum wage. Essentially, we make poor workers pay for our food!
You might think this next one is incredible, but it's true...
*** Ag work is among the most dangerous of jobs in the US, according to the Department of Labor.
And, as you might expect...if we ever thought about it:
*** The average life expectancy of an ag worker is just under 50 years. Many of those who manage to live longer than that are seriously disabled due to work-related injuries and illness.
BUT, get this one (!):
*** The "man" who picks your food might be a woman.
*** Farmworkers labor seven days a week, 10 to 14 hours per day during the 25 week seasons. (I couldn't keep that pace--even for one day.)
*** Ag workers aren't eligible for worker's compensation in New Mexico, a state that has discriminated against them that way since 1917. All other industries there--including seasonal construction work--must provide it. Farmworkers don't have money for medical insurance; they live in a continual health crisis.
This can change! The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is lobbying right now for an amendment to give workers' compensation to ag workers. Find more info on their website.
[They filmed the video (above) at the Farmworker Center where I volunteer each week. If you watch it, you'll see some people I know and love.]
--crossposted on Border Explorer