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Farmworkers face uncertain future as they age in the United States

Farmworkers face uncertain future as they age in the United States
In California, the average age of agricultural workers is 41 years old, this implies that there are workers who are 60, others 62 or older, and continue working in the field harvesting vegetables, with salaries that are not enough to guarantee a retirement. .

Many agricultural workers who come to the United States from other countries face deplorable living conditions, where, for example, they share a living space with 10 or 15 people. Added to this, their income is not enough to have a retirement, funeral or medical plan, leaving older people helpless.

Agricultural workers are not valued by the boss and are considered "disposable," said a 71-year-old man who has worked 38 years of his life in the fields to Manuel Ortiz during the Peninsula 360 Radio program, in collaboration with Marcos Gutiérrez. of ?Hecho en California?.

?We ask that you know how to value us, we are the ones who leave the "leather" and the blood on the wire, as the saying goes. Here the boss doesn't really value us, when we grow up they don't give you work anymore, here we are disposable?, said the farm worker who preferred to remain anonymous.

Regarding the subject, The New York Times published an article called ?Off-grid retirement: The plight of America's aging farmworkers?, of which, Anna Lee Mraz, sociologist and CEO of Peninsula 360 Press, commented that it addresses how migrants who have worked for years on American farms, when they are reaching their retirement age, face a difficult life without Medicare or social Security.

The article tells stories of different farmers from Florida, California, and other states, where similarities were noted, for example: currently there is a shortage of workers due to the danger they face to reach the United States, it is indicated that the The number of people who come to work in the fields has decreased by an average of 150 thousand per year.

This is mainly due to the barriers that have been imposed on the border, to the point that many workers who decided to stay since 2006 are today aging and creating a community of older people.

In California, the average age of agricultural workers is 41 years old, this implies that there are workers who are 60, others 62 or older, and continue working in the field harvesting vegetables, with salaries that are not enough to guarantee a retirement. .

The average salary of farm workers in the United States is 14.62 dollars, around 20 thousand dollars a year, which prohibits them from covering other expenses, while their access to health is limited, so any medical service run on your own.

?This article highlights that the little savings that workers have are being saved for their funeral expenses. There is even a woman who mentions: I will surely die in the countryside and she has her savings there so they can bury her.?added Anna Lee Mraz. 

In California, Oregon and Washington, undocumented farmworkers have the right to health care and overtime pay. But most states don't offer them any benefits.

For decades, retirement was not an issue, with farmworkers crossing the US-Mexico border for the harvest and then returning home until it was time to start again the next season. But this type of circular migration became increasingly risky and costly as successive U.S. presidents, starting in the 1990s, implemented barriers, placing technology and agents along the border to stem inflows. illegal.

In the article by The New York Times, it is stated that In interviews last year, in California, Oregon, Georgia and Florida, many workers said they had no retirement plan, so they need to work to support their own expenses.

In most cases, workers pay income taxes by filing tax returns, however, it is not enough for them to obtain any benefit from it, since more than 40 percent of the country's agricultural workers do not have a status. legal immigration, according to estimates from the Department of Agriculture.

Farmworkers in 2020 earned an average of $14.62 per hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

There is the H-24 visa program for seasonal agricultural workers in the country, this way they can get to work and return to their country each season, however, this type of hiring does not apply to a retirement plan either.

Added to not having access or the possibility of having sufficient income to plan for retirement and a peaceful future, they face very regrettable housing conditions, where between 10 or 15 people live in the same house, sharing a bathroom, kitchen and other things. common areas; The bosses do not support the maintenance of these spaces, much less the provision of amenities.  

Manuel Ortiz commented that Peninsula 360 Móvil, a studio on wheels, reaches vulnerable communities such as farmers, and as part of its projects it has worked with farmers from the Pacific coast area such as Half Moon Bay, among other places, seeking to reach rural communities, which are the least served, and will be traveling to Northern California, to continue telling their stories.

Manuel Ortíz explained that ?California fields are some of the most difficult to access. It would seem that the workers live in concentration camps, as soon as you set foot with a camera and the bosses immediately fall on you, because they don't want to show the working and living conditions of the peasants?.

In addition, he added that it is very complicated to document what happens in agricultural fields and very difficult to gain people's trust, but he is working to create a relationship of friendship as happens in community journalism.

The peasants are very afraid to speak, when approaching the peasants, they will say that they are fine, that everything is fine and that they are better than in other places, said Manuel Ortiz. However, he added that as he goes deeper and gains confidence, they actually say how things are.

Manuel Ortiz said that, in a meeting he had with people from Mexico and other countries that are in the United States, someone said that after spending 2 or 3 years in the United States, Mexicans have few economic problems being in the United States? this side?.

?I commented, it depends on which community we are talking about, because the peasants who are the ones who work the most, can happen to them like the man interviewed, who after 38 years working lives in very deplorable conditions.?added Manuel Ortiz, while highlighting that very little is known about this topic.

Finally, Anna Lee Mraz He commented that on one of his visits, he had the honor of entering a house to heat tortillas, a place where 15 people live, where the joints of the ceiling and the walls could be seen inclined, which puts them at risk: ?Homeowners should pay more attention to the conditions where their workers live?.

 

 You may be interested in: Trees and parks add longevity to the most vulnerable communities

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