Stephen Colbert testified before Congress last week about his experience as a farm worker as part of the United Farm Worker’s “Take Our Job Program”. In usual Colbert style he brought humor and light to a very serious subject.
All too often those especially who are conservatives make the charge that immigrant farm workers are “stealing Americans’ jobs.” Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers invited unemployed Americans to “Take our Jobs.” And in July made talked about it on Colbert’s show. Colbert took him up on the offer.
To date only 16 Americans have taken up the UFW’s challenge. But farm workers do critical and back-breaking work. They keep America’s farms going. They help bring food to our table often under the most difficult of conditions. They often lack bathrooms and descent places to stay in season. They are paid very low wages and often are hunched over for hours at a time picking vegetables and fruits close to the ground.
I have worked a long time with United Farm Workers on many actions. Especially in recent years to bring about better conditions for those working for the Mushroom conglomerate-Pictsweet. The company that once owned them had terrible violations of safety and terrible working conditions for these migrant workers. But working together with the union on behalf of the workers we were eventually able to make a difference in the conditions for these workers.
It is time to stop making these hard-working people the scape goats in the immigration reform discussion. Let’s hope Colbert’s attention to the issue helps many Americans see the humanity of the people who are immigrants and sometimes undocumented doing very hard and important work.
And who are bringing the food from the ground to our tables.
We need immigration reform. Comprehensive Immigration reform but the scapegoating especially in these economic times must stop and the race-baiting that has gone on blaming Hispanics for all the ills of America has got to stop as well. Hopefully, Stephen Colbert’s humor has helped to begin a conversation among those who would not normally think about the need for immigration reform and hopefully some folks will think twice before speaking ill of these hard-working migrant workers.