Monday, April 12, 2010

Large scale Commercial Ag worker issues-My thoughts.

 Using an anacronym I posted to a freinds blogs my thoughts on Ag large scale commercial operations in Hawaii and ag labour issues.

When we talk about large scale ag, even if we are using the most sophisticated tech out there currently today, which essentially cuts labor force needs in half, and requires some levels of technical skills for at least half of those workers, as well as supers and crew chief leaders, you are still talking about a significant number of people needed for stooped over labor work, in the hot sun, able to withstand that sort of a physical job. Too many people cite the whole "Hey, we can rehire all of those retired sugar workers.

They are probably dying to get back into ag. We will just hire them." Ok, lets be realistic. The majority of those folks would be 50,60, even sometimes 70 and 80 years old. These types of workers truly are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet.

They can do things with seemingly frail looking bodies that would embarrass most teenagers due to a lifetime of hard physical labor. However, frankly there are simply not enough of these people to go around. This rare group of amazing individuals needs to be supplemented by younger crews.

That is a necessity and a fact. So, where will these people come from? Most of the people here would rather work on their own pieces of property and farm for themselves and sell their produce rather then go and stoop labor in someone else's, unless the job was a technical or supervisory position. So where does that leave large scale commercial ag? Needing to import labor.

Now, you have just gone backwards 150 years into Hawai'is past. You need worker housing. You need to provide for them. They will eventually assimilate. Where will they live permanently? Will they come on worker Visas? How will they get along with the locals? How will you treat them? Will they be on contract?

Now, I am coming from a former ag supervisory angle on this. So the issue is far more complicated. Right now, workers are being imported from Asian countries and Mexico to fill out the labor force from local ag workers because the pool is so thin.

They are currently being housed on private properties scattered throughout the islands, and right now do not have it so bad, but the fact remains that they are indentured contracted workers. Their freedom of movement is curtailed, there are language barriers and fraternization is watched carefully by the handlers.

They are not allowed to currently bring spouses or children, so they lack female companionship which is also a concern for various reasons, as it was a major area of concern 100 years ago. Immigration issues are also a concern.

Costs for them to purchase equipment and clothing,as well as food and housing are taken out of wages exactly as it was done 100 years ago in Hawaii, as well as all personal needs. As you are all well aware, isolation, inflated costs and homogenous groupings contributed to much of the strife suffered by indentured workers in Hawaii.

It is a fact that over half of all laborers returned to their countries of origins many times poorer then when they began for most what was a 7 year journey. This is the human side of this issue.

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