U.S. farmers use inmates to harvest fields
PICACHO, Ariz., Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Western U.S. farmers are increasingly using inmates to harvest their fields as states crack down on hiring undocumented workers.
Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn and melons this summer, and Iowa is considering a similar program, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007
While inmates have worked for private farms in Arizona for almost 20 years, legislation signed this summer fining employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers has brought growing numbers of farmers to the Arizona Department of Corrections for help, the newspaper said.
Unlike other sectors, where federal regulations require inmate workers be paid a prevailing wage and receive workers' compensation, agricultural companies can hire state inmates on a contract basis, the Monitor said.
The workers must get at least $2 an hour. Thirty percent of their wages go to prison room and board, with the rest going to court-ordered restitution for victims, any child support and a mandatory savings account.
The farms pay for transportation from the prison to the work site and for prison guards.
While farmers like the idea, the United Farm Workers of America says inmate labor undermines unionized labor.
"It's rather insulting that (Arizona) would look so poorly on farm workers that they would attempt to use inmates (to perform the work)," spokesman Marc Grossman says.