How is Colorado’s new farmworkers’ rights bill being received by migrant farmworkers? With a shrug.

Article subtitle: 
In fields hours away from the political pressure cooker of the Colorado legislature, Senate Bill 87 is stoking a different kind of debate.
Article CAIRCO note: 
From article: "The rules [federal] ensure they get decent housing, medical care and transportation. H2-A workers earn a minimum wage of $14.82 an hour, or nearly $1,100 a week." They all respond with vigorous  "Bien!" when asked how they were treated.
Article author: 
Nancy Lofholm
Article publisher: 
Colorado Sun
Article date: 
26 July 2021
Article category: 
Colorado News
Article Body: 

Erasmo Cano downs a bottled drink and dumps the dregs of packaged cookies into his mouth before he climbs out of the van where he and his coworkers have been taking a 15-minute shade break...

Cano has no complaints.

“Me gusta trabajar,” he says. “I like to work.”

Most of this crew are seasonal farmworkers from Guanajuato, Mexico, here on temporary visas called H2-As.

But this season, the Farmworkers’ Bill of Rights that was signed into law after passing through the Colorado state Capitol five hours from these fields will significantly impact working conditions for Cano and the more than 40,000 farmworkers in Colorado, an estimated three-quarters of them Mexican and Central American migrant workers.  

Cano and his fellow workers look at each other in confusion when asked what they think about the new law. They shrug their shoulders. They are not aware of it.

Their working lives in the United States are already covered by 567 pages of federal regulations that spell out exactly what employers must supply to H2-A workers. The rules ensure they get decent housing, medical care and transportation. H2-A workers earn a minimum wage of $14.82 an hour, or nearly $1,100 a week.

Ag operations say the new state law could hike labor costs by 30%

When asked now by a reporter if he feels his employer treats him well, he responds, “bien” with a vigorous nod of his head. The other men nearby echo his opinion.  “Bien.” Bien,” they repeat one after another.

“Todo está bien,” says Maria Perez as she neatly folds a bandana and ties it over her face before heading back into the fields after her break. “All is well.” She leaves her cousin, another Maria Perez, resting in the backseat of their SUV because the heat is making her feel ill. Her boss would not object, she says while holding a wet cloth to her head. ...

Manuel Saldana, who has come from Guanajuato to work for the Harolds for 18 seasons and functions as a sort of unofficial farm boss, sputtered and expressed shock when he heard that legislators were told one of the Harolds’ workers was not allowed to go to the hospital.

“I took him to the hospital myself,” Saldana said. “We always get the medical treatment we need. I hit my head two years ago and John Harold took me to the hospital himself, and he paid for it.” ...

CAIRCO Notes:  These are jobs Americans will do. They will earn on average almost $1,100 a week and they have employer housing. Not tents on the sidewalk but housing. And medical care. 

  Refer to the Great Recession and "Can We Retire 'Jobs Americans Won't Do?' 'by Mark Krikorian on June 9, 2009.


  2009-Colorado farmers have applied for 13 percent fewer foreign worker visas this year and state labor officials believe the cause is the lagging U.S. economy and the thousands of Coloradans looking for work.
  "Unemployment is nearly 8 percent across Colorado and that is a big difference than a year ago, when it was around 4 percent," said Larry Lemmons, targeted program manager for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Lemmons' office oversees the visa applications.
  Lemmons said the number of farm job applications being handled at Colorado employment centers has increased significantly this year.
  "I think that's the largest reason we've seen a decline in the H-2A visa program," Lemmons said. "In past years, unemployed people in Colorado were not much interested in these seasonal farm jobs. This year we're seeing hundreds of new applications for those jobs." Lemmons said.