Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Slavery By Another Name

The Seattle Weekly had an interesting article on how guest worker contractors screw their workers by charging huge fees and don't provide promised work. But hidden in the article was this little gem from an orchard owner in Yakima:
Valicoff Farms co-owner Rob Valicoff, who owns about 1,500 acres of fruit trees in the area, started using guest workers last year. He says he plans to use even more this season because of a lack of loyalty among the locally available workforce.

"Domestic workers are not committed," says Valicoff, sitting in an office overlooking the floor of his packing plant, where rows of rosy Washington apples come out of cold storage through an intricate series of conveyor belts surveyed by hair-netted Latino women. "They work hard, don't get me wrong, but last year they would get on their cell phones and figure out where the best pay was—and some would leave." [Notice how workers aren't allowed to participate in the "free market"]

Valicoff claims that he has lost tens of thousands of dollars in the past few years due to lack of consistent labor at crucial harvest times, and that rising wages increased his expenses by 20 percent last year. He says he watched sensitive crops like cherries and apples wither on trees as workers freely roamed from orchard to orchard in search of higher pay. [How dare them!!]

But, he says, such labor mobility can basically be solved through the use of guest workers. "The guest workers...aren't allowed to go anywhere," says Valicoff. "They have a contract with us and we have one with them. If they leave, it's our responsibility to inform ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement, formerly INS]. That's why the guest worker program works."

That sure sounds like indentured servitude or slavery to me! Poor Valicoff -- he's a victim to workers wanting to get the best wage they can for their labor. Boo Hoo.

Maybe I'm glad our do-nothing Congress couldn't get an immigration bill together if legalized slavery was the expectation of employers!


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