On the Road for Work: Migratory Workers on the East Coast of by G. Thomas-Lycklama-Nijeholt

By G. Thomas-Lycklama-Nijeholt

Migratory farm staff give you the additional palms which are so badly wanted through the planting and harvest season within the usa. even supposing those employees were necessary to the yank agricultural procedure for greater than 100 years, our wisdom of them is proscribed and particularly fragmentary; it may be divided approximately into varieties of info. at the one hand, now we have the statistical information gathered via numerous censuses and the knowledge amassed by means of agricultural econ­ omists to check the availability of and insist for farm exertions. the commercial facets of farm exertions often predominate in such fabric. at the different, now we have the medical stories and journalistic descriptions that file on migratory farm through the use of a qualitative technique. The social scientists and reporters who staff have compiled those studies lived within the exertions camps and feature vividly defined the dismal and oppressive stipulations those staff needs to suffer. the disadvantage of the 1st kind of facts is that its orientation to monetary difficulties makes it too superficial and one-sided. It fails to interrelate the varied financial components affecting the lives and paintings of all farm staff, and conse­ quently provides a distorted and incomplete photo of migratory farm employee existence. additionally, as the migratory farm employees are rather elusive and typically preserve a low profIle, they can be underrepresented in such facts. the knowledge accumulated by utilizing qualitative equipment have the key drawback of being relatively constrained in scope.

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Sample text

Changes in the weather affect crop conditions, and this in turn affects the availability of work. Most workers usually do only three or four full days of work each week (Friedland and Nelkin 1971 :6). While they are in the North, the migratory farm workers usually live in camps. A worker's arrival in a camp does not, however, guarantee that he or she can start on a job right away. To assure the presence of enough workers at the right time, the employer and the crew leader quite often arrange for the workers to arrive well ahead of time, with the result that they are idle for several days.

The agricultural employers' growing concern can easily be explained by the diverse aspects of the agribusiness and by the kind of work that has to be done. The problem is that while mechanization has taken over a large amount of the work in agriculture, the employers are still completely dependent on a cheap, docile labor force in the peak periods of the harvest. This is in part because machines are fallible: sugarcane cutters, for example, have a tendency to sink into the mud and uproot the stalks, and apple shakers can "pick" apples off a tree very quickly but can also bruise the apples badly.

The main reason seems to be that the employers considered them to be less desirable because they had the same rights as American citizens. The president of a Florida employers' association described this drawback to the Secretary of Agriculture as follows: The vast difference between the Bahama Island labor and the domestic, including Puerto Rican, is that labor transported from the Bahama Islands can be diverted and sent home if it does not work, which cannot be done in the instance of labor from domestic United States or Puerto Rico.

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