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Work in the Strawberry Fields
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  1. Work in the Strawberry Fields Cliff Handal Jon Rafkind Patrick Leighton

  2. Strawberry Field in California

  3. Article Synopsis • Roughly 5,600 acres of strawberry fields in California • Fastest growing and most profitable of all California produce (second in America) • Can yield more revenue per acre than any crop except marijuana • Extremely risky and expensive to grow

  4. Migrant Workers • Strawberry farms employ thousands of migrant workers • Cheap labor is required due to the expensive cost of the crop • Labor comes in the form of illegal immigrants from Mexico • Between 30-60% of workers are illegal

  5. Wages for workers adjusted for inflation have fallen 53 percent since 1985 • Average migrant worker is 28 years old, from Mexico making $5,000 a year for 25 weeks of service • Life expectancy: 49 years old

  6. Present Day Slaves • Field owners cut costs by paying workers off the books • Pay also is less than minimum wage • Continually in violation of California labor laws • Sharecropping • Ownership of fields by workers

  7. Sharecropping • Owners avoid responsibility for their workers • Risk from farmers to the farm worker • Instead of paying wages, farmer gives the worker a field of there own • A 50-50 split on all profits is promised • Sharecropper in turn becomes responsible for hiring workers and maintaining field

  8. La Fruta del Diablo • Poverty • A migrant does not know how long the workday will last or what the wage rate will be until he arrives at the field • Tedious work • Learning how to pack strawberries correctly can take weeks. (gathering, packing, tending the plants) • Most migraants quit in their mid-thirties

  9. Wages • Higher in Watsonville and Salinas than in southern California b/c of greater distance from Mexico • Top quality berries - $7 or $8 an hour • High wages will only last a month and most works can’t attain them • Availability of work is the greatest concern, not the pay

  10. Locked into Dependence • INS has traditionally rounded up and deported illegal immigrants in California immediately after the harvest • The whole system now depends on a steady supply of illegal immigrants to keep farm wages low and to replace migrants who have either retired to Mexico or found better jobs

  11. Social-Conflict Theory • Strawberry fields is a Karl Marx’s class struggle and multiculturalism • Congress (IRCA) passed laws increasing the number of immigrants rather than decreasing them

  12. Social-Conflict Theory • Employers rely on others misfortunes to make a profit • If no misfortunes can be found in America they will look elsewhere like Mexico and illegal immigrants • Immigrants get paid very little and live in unbearable conditions that many Americans would never even consider

  13. Questions to Consider • 1. If your earnings were solely based on the amount of money you paid your employees, would you pay your workers less knowing that you could get away with it?

  14. Questions to Consider • 2. Which would be a better situation? If illegal immigration were completely stopped and strawberry growers had to hire American workers for decent wages thus increasing the strawberry prices, or let illegal immigrants go unregulated working for the bare minimum to provide the rest of society with low strawberry prices?

  15. Questions to Consider • 3. How would you solve the problem of illegal immigrants working low paying, hard working jobs?

  16. Questions to Consider • 4. Do the strawberry fields in the end contribute to American society more than they take from it?