Workers in the fields earn about 50 cents for picking a bucket containing 32 pounds of tomatoes. These workers make only $10,000 to $12,000 a year, much of which they send home. The $10,000-$12,000 range, because it includes the higher pay of supervisors, means the real wages of the pickers are usually less than $10,000 a year. Wages have remained stagnant since 1980. A worker must pick 2.25 tons of tomatoes to make minimum wage during one of the grueling 10-hour workdays. This is twice what they had to pick 30 years ago for the same amount of money. (emphasis added)I ask you to focus on the portion of the above snippet I have emphasized. As a reminder, one ton equals 2,000 pounds. So, Hedges is saying that, in order to claim a minimum wage rate of pay, each worker must pick 4,500 pounds PER DAY.
~ from The Tomatoes of Wrath by Chris Hedges ~
When was the last time you had to lift 4,500 pounds in one day?
Since most farmworkers work 6 days per week -- if they are "lucky" -- that's 27,000 pounds per week just to earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. That makes working at a burger joint or nursing home seem like a dream job!
Next time I hear some conservative politico wail about all these illegal immigrants stealing jobs from red-blooded Americans, I'm going to think about 4,500 pounds of tomatoes per day. How many red-blooded Americans do you know who would jump at the chance of picking 2.25 tons of tomatoes for no more than $75 per day?
I certainly wouldn't be very interested and I know few others that would be as well.