Farm Worker’s Rights

      Grape picking is one of the most laborious agricultural jobs in the US and for all the hard work these people are doing, they are not even paid enough to support themselves much less a family. In 2004, a 53 year old grape picker fainted from heat stroke after working ten hours in the field that day. His son was driving him to the nearest hospital when the man died in the back of the car. This is not uncommon and in 2008 a pregnant teenager and a 37 year old died of heat stroke while working in the vineyards in San Joaquin Valley, California. California is the largest producer of grapes in the country. All of the United states table grapes and 90% of the country’s wine comes from the one million acres of vineyards that are 48% wine grapes, 40% raisins and 12% table grapes. In the main grape picking seasons of August to September,  harvesting 250,000 acres of raisin grapes requires 30,000 workers. These are 30,000 underpaid workers who work 10 to 12 hour days in the fields with few breaks. These people are such a big part of how we get our food they deserve more wages and more respect.

         Low wages and poor working and living conditions are not a new problem in agricultural farming. In the 1930’s, workers were paid around five dollars a day. Today, most grape farmers are paid one to five cents per bunch of grapes picked. That means that to earn one dollar, the grape pickers would have to pick around 90 bunches of grapes. This is practically slavery and it is inhumane and unfair. There are many causes to these problems including the laws that surround immigrant workers are not enforced very much.This means that the farm owners can basically do whatever they want as long as they don’t draw too much attention to themselves. Another big cause of low wages and poor working and living conditions is the fact that lots of the immigrant workers are undocumented and they don’t want to get deported so they are willing to work for very little in poor circumstances. They are under the thumb of the farm owners because if they leave the farm then the owners could report them and they could be deported so instead they trade their freedom and rights to speak out for being in the United States. The effects of such little income and bad working and living conditions is that the poverty cycle continues and becomes hard to break. If farm workers continue to make around $1,750 a year then they can not afford to live anywhere but on the farms where they work. This means that it would be hard for the workers or their children to ever leave the farms because if they went into the cities they would have to start from nothing, no education, no job experience and they would have no money. This makes it hard to really integrate into any community outside one where many immigrant workers work. As I have been researching immigrant workers, their lives and the struggles they face I have seen one common thread from where all the problems start; the government.

         The government makes the laws and the laws are the standards of which things are done. They government has possibly the most power to make a difference in any aspect of life in the United states and they are the people that could change everything for immigrant farm workers. I am surprised that the frequent immigrant farmworker deaths or the many protest that have taken place about farmworkers rights have not tipped the government off that something is wrong and though the  government has made changes, they did not do very much to drastically improve the lives of the immigrant workers and that is what need to be done. I have seen that most of the agreements have been made directly between the farm workers unions and the farm owners or the bosses. I have seen that the government has merely set up the guidelines and stepped out to let everybody else do the fighting. I think this is a terrible approach and I don’t think anything is going to change if the government doesn’t intervene and do something. I am proposing a new set of guidelines for farm workers rights. I think that the farmworkers should be paid at least minimum wage on top of how much they earn by picking per bunch. I think that there should be laws about the conditions in which these people live because they are humans just like us and would you really want to live in a rundown shack? I don’t think so. I also think that there should be required breaks throughout the day because these farmworkers are working in extreme conditions for 10 to 12 hours a day and they are exposed to many dangers including heat stroke, extreme colds which could cause frostbite and hypothermia, accidents that could occur when they are far away from a hospital, lake of water and lack of shade and exposure to dangerous pesticides. These are basic human rights and to not give the people who are a big part of putting food on your table is cruel and selfish. If the government would just spend some of the money in their budget on improving the lives of the people who live in it’s country, wouldn’t the united states be better? I think it would be and that’s why I think that the government should impose new laws and give immigrant farm workers better wages, improved living and working conditions and get them out from under the thumb of the farm owners and the bosses. Do we really want to be known as the century that brought back slavery? I don’t think so, and if we don’t do something soon, that’s where we’re headed.

Written By: Avery Van Natta



“UFW History”, United Farm Workers organization,


This was a good source because it had good, reliable information on many farm workers rights topics.


“Food Specific Industries”, Southern Poverty Law Center,


This was a good source because it had very detailed information on grapes, grape pickers, the conditions in which they live and wages in which grape pickers earn


“Labor Union”, Farlex,


This was a good source because it had good history on the UFWA and a good definition of Labor union.


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Showing 3 comments
  • Ava Axelrod

    What did you find most effective or persuasive about this post?
    This post had lots of information that really made me want to do something about the farmer work labor.
    What part of this post surprised you or taught you something new?
    That so many people die from this work labor.
    How could the post be improved?
    I think that this blog could have more information about deaths because that is a big part and there is not much info about it.

  • Emma Snyder

    Make sure you capitalize “United States”- in one of your sentences you didn’t. Also, when you say “They government” do you mean “the government”? I thought that how you talked about what the government is doing was helpful, instead of just talking about the harsh living conditions of farm workers. I was surprised that the farm workers had to work ten hours straight.

  • Amna Ali

    The most effective strategy used was how this essay explained what was happening in grape farms and why it is so bad. Something new that I learned was that so many young people are only paid one to five cents for every bunch of grapes they pick. I also liked how you ended with telling people that we don’t want to bring back slavery. You might want to spread out the information a little.

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