Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Take My Job, Please

Gilda turned me into a day laborer Sunday morning. She didn’t pick me up off a street corner. She graciously let me sleep in till almost 9. But as soon as I was cognizant, she pronounced our morning activity would be turning hard topsoil of a 250 sq. ft. section of our yard that had been particularly resistant to grass cultivation. She was convinced we could do a better job than our gardeners.

We had hoped to make short work of the plot with a gas roto-tiller borrowed from Marty. Two things conspired against that plan: First, we couldn’t figure out how to start it (Marty later acknowledged it is kind of tricky). More importantly, we feared the tiller would nick some of the underground piping in the area, either part of the sprinkler system or the evacuation line from our basement sump pump. So we decided to use good old fashioned muscle power, a phrase not usually associated with my, shall we say, lithe body.

We started early enough to avoid the heat of the day, yet it was well into the 80s with high humidity just minutes after we began churning the dirt. The groundbreaking work took about two hours to complete, time no doubt lengthened by my persistent complaints, water breaks, overall lack of enthusiasm for the task and repeated recommendations that next time Gilda needed yard work done she should hire some “illegals” we’re hearing so much about. They’re more than welcome to take my spot on the Gilda gardening assembly line. They, of course, would not share some of the creature comforts I had—access to an indoor bathroom inside an air conditioned house.

How many “real American” jobs are being supplanted by illegal immigrants? Hard to say, though it is generally recognized that a large portion of the farm workers in California’s San Joaquin Valley are not legal residents. Even Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, admitted as much on The Colbert Report last Thursday. Without illegals willing to work in 100 degree temperatures and other horrid conditions, our agricultural industry might not flourish, Rodriguez asserted. To demonstrate that illegals are not taking American jobs, the UFW has embarked on a new campaign, “Take Our Jobs,” inviting U.S. citizens to work in the fields. So far, just three people have signed on, said Rodriguez, though Stephen Colbert did “volunteer” to work a farm, preferably one with air conditioning.

Rodriguez also suggested produce prices could “skyrocket” next winter as it might be “difficult” for the workers to travel to Yuma, Ariz., to pick the crop because of SB1070, the state law that encourages law enforcement officers to stop and question anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. Here’s a link to the interview on The Colbert Report—you'll have to either watch the full show or shift down to the 16:25 minute mark of the program (http://www.colbertnation.com/full-episodes/thu-july-8-2010-arturo-rodriguez) and another link to an article from the Texas Tribune on the Take Our Jobs campaign (http://www.texastribune.org/immigration-in-texas/immigration/ufw-launches-take-our-jobs-initiative/).

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