Farmworkers in the US are crucial to the food supply, but they often face exploitation and poverty due to low wages and exploitative working conditions. That’s why it’s important to look at their plight—and consider what can be done to help them.
The importance of farmworkers to the US food supply
The agricultural production sector is one of the largest and most important parts of the US economy. It employs over 2 million people, making it one of the most vital sectors in the country. The production of food has a direct impact on the quality of life of Americans, and the role of farmworkers in that production is crucial.
Farmworkers are often seen as minimal players in the agricultural production process. They are responsible for tasks that would be considered menial by other workers – such as planting and harvesting crops. But the work that farmworkers do is essential to the US food supply. Without them, the food we eat would be considerably less nutritious and likely a lot more expensive.
Sadly, many farmworkers face deplorable working conditions and low wages. This is due, in part, to the exploitative practices of their employers. They are forced to work long hours for little pay, often below minimum wage levels. In some cases, they are also subjected to dangerous and unhealthy work environments.
Despite these challenges, there has been much progress made to improve the condition of farmworkers over the years. Several government agencies have been created specifically to address their concerns, and there has been a discernible increase in corporate involvement in worker welfare. However, much more needs to be done in order to fully support the well-being of farmworkers.
The exploitation of farmworkers
In the US, farmworkers are crucial to the food supply. But they are often forced into poverty due to exploitative working conditions and low wages. Farmworkers typically work long hours for little pay, and are often subjected to hazardous work conditions. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by their employers.
Many farmworkers are exploited because they are not paid fairly for the amount of work that they do. They are also often subjected to unsafe working conditions, which can cause them serious injury or even death. In some cases, employers falsify records to make it appear that their workers are doing more than their fair share. This leads to extreme tiredness and malnutrition, which can lead to illness and even death.
While the government has a responsibility to ensure that farmworkers are treated fairly, it also has a lot of power to help them. For example, it can pass laws that require employers to pay their workers a fair wage, provide safe working conditions, and provide adequate food and water. Additionally, the government can investigate reports of exploitation and take appropriate action.
The low wages of farmworkers
The average wage for farmworkers is very low compared to other occupations. For example, the average wage for all occupations in the US was $27,620 in 2016, while the average wage for farmworkers was only $10,920 (National Farm Workers Association, n.d.). This discrepancy is largely due to the fact that farmworkers are typically paid a below-minimum wage. In fact, 67% of farmworkers are paid less than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (Goudreau, 2017). This means that a large majority of farmworkers are earning an hourly wage that does not even meet the subsistence level.
Another reason why the wages of farmworkers are so low is due to the fact that they are typically required to work excessive hours. For example, the average farmworker works over 50 hours a week, which is more than double the 32 hours that is considered normal workweek (Dolliver & Perry, 2016). This excessive work schedule is often required in order to cover the high costs of operating a farm. However, this schedule is also highly exploitative because it allows farmers to pay their workers very little compensation for all of this overtime work.
In addition to low wages and excessive hours, farmworkers are also paid a below-minimum wage for holidays and weekends. This means that they are often unable to take time off work to celebrate important occasions like Christmas or Easter. As a result, many farmworkers are forced to rely on public assistance to survive.
Despite these harsh conditions, there are efforts being made to improve the conditions of farmworkers. For example, the National Farm Workers Association has been working towards improving worker safety standards since 1971 (National Farm Workers Association, n.d.). Additionally, many states have enacted statutes that prohibit employers from requiring employees to work in hazardous conditions (Dolliver & Perry, 2016). These laws have helped reduce the number of agricultural workers who are injured on the job.
Despite these positive developments, there are still many challenges that face farmworkers. For example, many farmworkers do not have access to affordable health care. This is because they often earn too little money to afford quality health care coverage (Goudreau, 2017). Additionally, many farmworkers do not have any form of retirement savings because their wages do not provide them with enough money to save. As a result, many farmworkers are forced into retirement at a much earlier age than they would like.
The efforts being made to improve the conditions of farmworkers
One of the main goals of organizations working to improve the conditions of farmworkers is to increase wages. In 2014, the Obama Administration announced a plan that would raise the minimum wage for farmworkers to $10.10 per hour. This plan was put into place in an attempt to address the fact that farmworkers are among the lowest-paid workers in the US.
While this increase in pay is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done. The minimum wage for agricultural workers is only $7.25 per hour, which is far below the poverty level for a family of four. Additionally, many farmworkers are paid less than the minimum wage even when they are working full-time.
Another goal of organizations working to improve the conditions of farmworkers is to better equip them to resist exploitation. This includes providing education on labor and human rights, as well as providing vocational training and other opportunities that will help employees move into better-paid, non-farm jobs.
Despite these challenges, there has been some progress made in improving the conditions of farmworkers. The Obama Administration’s plan to raise the minimum wage for farmworkers is a good example of this progress.
The challenges still faced by farmworkers
Despite the important role that farmworkers play in the food supply, their conditions are often poor and they earn low wages.
Many farmworkers are forced into poverty through exploitative working conditions and low pay. This leaves them with little money to live on and often forces them into dangerous and unsavory work.
Though some progress has been made, much work remains to be done to improve the welfare of farmworkers. Groups such as the Farm Workers’ Association are committed to helping them achieve a better life.
The importance of farmworkers to the US food supply cannot be overstated. They are often forced into poverty due to exploitative working conditions and low wages. But there are efforts being made to improve their lot. Hopefully, these efforts will result in a brighter future for these important workers.