No, Thanks, I’ll Walk

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

August 27, 2014

Imagine my profound unhappiness when I got into a Washington D.C. taxi and was immediately barraged by a televised amnesty advertisement.

TV ads in taxis promote amnesty

Taxis are used to promote amnesty. Is there nowhere to escape immigration lobbying?

I went to D.C. to spend a long weekend watching the San Francisco Giants play the Washington Nationals, to ride the 180-foot tall Capital Wheel at the National Harbor and to celebrate the panda Bao Bao’s first birthday. Since Congress is on recess – or what it likes to call “constituent workdays” – I felt pretty sure that I could avoid unpleasant immigration stuff.

I should have stayed home. The Giants lost two out of three; I chickened out on the Ferris wheel and couldn’t get near Bao Bao’s cage. Worst, the amnesty ad that caught me off guard played repeatedly on multiple cab rides.

The Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Farm Bureau Federation, powerful amnesty advocates, have launched the ads in D.C. cabs, at Reagan and Dulles Airports, and in movie theaters in key congressional districts, as well as at state fairs and rodeos.

The farm labor shortage theme is a familiar one. We’ve heard it for about 20 years. Gosh darn it, those poor farmers just don’t have enough labor to pick their crops, and by golly, if they don’t get more guest workers right now, they’ll have to let their crops rot in the fields! Watch the ad here and notice the subtle suggestion that because American families demand locally grown produce, everyone wants amnesty.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the incessant ag lobbying for more cheap labor guest workers. First, as a regular at California farmers’ markets for nearly three decades, I never once saw a shortage of any seasonal fruits or vegetables. Ditto at major supermarkets’ produce sections. Someone picked those crops this year and every preceding year. If there were a labor shortage, consumers wouldn’t have any lettuce or tomatoes for salads. When was the last time anyone said they couldn’t find mushrooms or apples?

Second, CNBC’s John Carney has written a must-read report which found that farms can't attract labor because they don't pay as much as other local indoor jobs like cashiers or stock personnel. Carney also revealed that American farms had record cash incomes as recently as 2010 ($99.4 billion) and 2011 ($134.7 billion), both years that the ag lobby predicted industry-crushing labor shortages. In his follow-up 2013 story, Carney wrote that farmers had solved the so-called shortage by increasing wages. Despite this “radical” solution, 2013 profits are predicted to rise by 13 percent, to more than double their 2009 level.

In 2010 and 2011, the farm industry earned nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars. With profits like those, paying a living wage to ag workers is not only affordable, but also humanitarian. Instead, the craven ag lobby wants to undermine its workers by importing more cheap labor.

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