Georgia has put tough immigration laws into effect and as a result, many immigrants, both legal and illegal, are refusing to work in the fields picking crops. It is estimated that up to 40% of Georgia’s produce will be left to rot in the fields.
The governor of Georgia created a plan to help with the labor shortage. Probationers are encouraged to work in the fields. Unfortunately, it is not working out so well for the growers as these new workers quit half way through the day. Productivity is low and is not sufficient to complete the harvest.
Mendez put the probationers to the test last Wednesday, assigning them to fill one truck and a Latino crew to a second truck. The Latinos picked six truckloads of cucumbers compared to one truckload and four bins for the probationers.
“It’s not going to work,” Mendez said. “No way. If I’m going to depend on the probation people, I’m never going to get the crops up.”
Conditions in the field are bruising, and the probationers didn’t seem to know what to expect. Cucumber plants hug the ground, forcing the workers to bend over, push aside the large leaves and pull them from the vine. Unlike the Mexican and Guatemalan workers, the probationers didn’t wear gloves to protect their hands from the small but prickly thorns on the vines and sandpaper-rough leaves.
Be careful what you wish for.