agriculture

Short-term driver's license bill introduced

A bill introduced Tuesday would allow some people without immigration documents to obtain a short-term Oregon driver’s license.

Senate Bill 833 has not been assigned to a committee for a hearing.

The bill would allow the state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division to issue licenses without proof of legal presence in the United States if applicants meet all other conditions. Such licenses would be valid for four years, half the standard eight years.

Applicants still would have to prove their identity, date of birth, and residence in Oregon for one year, as well as pass the written and driving-skills tests.

Such licenses could not be used for federal identification purposes, such as boarding commercial aircraft or entering federal buildings.

Lawmakers in 2008 required proof of legal presence in the United States as a condition of obtaining a state license or identification card. They did so to comply with requirements of the federal Real ID Act, which does allow states to issue other licenses if clearly marked as invalid for federal identification purposes.

Eleven months ago, Gov. John Kitzhaber said he would convene a group to resolve the issue of licenses for those who lacked the documents.

“People need to pass a test, obtain a license and insurance to be on the roads. We all need to get to church, the store and work,” said Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries and part of the group.

“We have worked hard to craft a bill that allows our law enforcement officials to know when they are looking at a valid driver’s license. Senate Bill 833 is a reasonable solution to the problem.”

The bill is expected to face opposition from Oregonians for Immigration Reform.

“Before the 2008 law, Oregon’s license had become the gold standard for potential terrorists and drug traffickers because it was good for eight years and didn’t require any proof of legal presence,” said Jim Ludwick of McMinnville, a spokesman. “Five years later, we are right back in the same place.”

Francisco Lopez, executive director of Causa Oregon immigrant-rights group, said there are about 200,000 Latino workers in Oregon.

“We are contributing members of the community and the economy,” he said.

Washington and New Mexico do not require proof of legal presence for licenses; Washington issues an enhanced license valid for federal purposes. Utah issues a driver privilege card that must be renewed annually.

The bill is sponsored by four Democrats and four Republicans in both chambers.

They are Sens. Chip Shields, D-Portland; Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay; Bill Hansell, R-Athena; Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, and Reps. Chris Harker, D-Beaverton, Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland, Vic Gilliam, R-Silverton, and Mark Johnson, R-Hood River.

Confidential, expensive USDA sensitivity training: ‘The Pilgrims were illegal aliens’

Footage of the United States Department of Agriculture’s compulsory “Cultural Sensitivity Training” program reveals USDA employees being instructed to refer to the Pilgrims as “illegal aliens” and minorities as “emerging majorities” — at “a huge expense” to taxpayers.

The video clips were made public Thursday evening by the conservative government accountability group Judicial Watch, which obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made on May 18, 2012.

The clips star Samuel Betances — a diversity instructor with Souder, Betances and Associates — who says in the video that he got his diversity training start under former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. In the clips, Betances instructed USDA employees on the proper thinking about diversity and minorities — or, as he called them, “emerging majorities.”

Between requiring the employees to repeat that “every federal agency has discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics, Native American Indians and other groups,” and a long account of his personal history, Betances encouraged the employees to take note because the presentation is “a huge expense.”

“If you take a look at all of you here and you think about your salaries and your benefits and what you have left undone – plus my fee – plus the expense of the team that’s putting the video together, this is a huge expense,” he says in his video.

In another clip, Betances attempted to dispel the stigma of illegal immigrants by calling the Pilgrims illegal aliens.

“I want you to say that America was founded by outsiders – say that – who are today’s insiders, who are very nervous about today’s outsiders,” he said in the clip.

“I want you to say, ‘The Pilgrims were illegal aliens,’” he continued. “Say, ‘The Pilgrims never gave their passports to the Indians.’”

Throughout the session, Betances had the employees shout “Bam!” to reinforce his points.

Betances also explained in another clip Judicial Watch highlighted — from the more than three-and-a-half hour video — that he does not like the word “minorities.”

“By the way, I don’t like the word ‘minorities.’ How about ‘emerging majorities’?” he said.

At times in the video, Betances poked fun at “white males.”

“White males founded the USDA! Say ‘Thank you, white males.’ I know it got stuck, some of you couldn’t get it out,” he said to laughter. “I understand. Let’s try that again. Go ahead.”

“Notice I’m not saying, ‘Thank you for slavery, or sexism, or what happened to the indigenous Native American folks.’ I’m saying thank you for what? I’m saying, ‘Thank you for establishing the agency in which those of us that are not white males seek to play a larger role,’” Betances said in a faux giddy manner, before explaining that unity begins with gratitude, before turning to grievances. “We’ve got grievances!,” he said. “This institution, like all federal institutions, have not been fair.”

The training videos were supposed to be kept secret: Judicial Watch describes an Oct. 10, 2011 email exchange in which USDA Training Administrator Vincent Loran requested the training video from Betances and promised it will never get out.

“It will not be used for or show [sic] in any way shape or form,” Judicial Watch quotes Loran as writing…

Judicial Watch notes that in 2011 and 2012, USDA paid Betances and his firm nearly $200,000.
 

Your tax dollars at work

Oregon is home to a thriving nursery industry.  However, many of these businesses take advantage of Brad Avakian (Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner) and Oregon's lax enforcement of labor laws.  They often rely on workers that are in the U.S illegally.  Now, to add insult to injury, your tax dollars are being used to educate nursery workers, so they will be better educated for their employers. Read more here.

Wouldn't Oregon's tax dollars be better spent to educate Oregon's unemployed youth, our returning veterans or our low skill workers that want to work, but either don't have specialized skills or simply can't find a job?

Oregon needs a strong Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner.  Vote for Bruce Starr for BOLI Commissioner.
 

Phony Farm Labor Shortage: We Need to Talk About It

A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that despite all the talk of a farm labor shortage last summer, American farms had an amazingly profitable year.

Net cash income rose from the record high in 2010 of $99.4 billion to a new record high of $134.7 billion. That’s an eye-popping 35.5 percent profit growth! (Read more:More Data on The Phony Farm Labor Crisis)

I pointed out that in some of the states that had been repeatedly said to be facing a labor shortage—California and Washington, for example—profit growth was even higher. Washington farms saw profits grow by 58 percent, for goodness' sakes.

Yet somehow the myth of a farm labor shortage persists.

I received countless emails arguing that in one way or another, I had missed the orchard for the trees. Folks insist that despite record profitability, there remains a labor shortage.

And, of course, there are now dire predictions that the farm labor shortage of 2011 (which never happened) will be even worse in 2012. My colleague Jane Wells recently reported that the Western Growers Association claims its members are reporting a 20 percent drop in laborers this year. (Read more: California Farm Labor Shortage 'Worst It's Ever Been')

Let’s begin by conceding the idea that the members of the WGA are facing a sharp drop in laborers. Does this imply there is a “labor shortage"?

It certainly implies a labor reduction, but in order for it to count as a “shortage” shouldn’t that mean that work isn’t getting done or is becoming too expensive? Alternatively, shouldn’t it mean that it is creating food shortages of some sort or damaging the financial health of farmers?

To put it differently, if fruit is rotting on the vine, how do we explain these outsize farm profits? Are the farmers merely complaining that they could have been even more profitable if they had more laborers?

Let’s say that’s the case. Suppose California farmers, who saw a 45 percent profit rise last year, would have been even more profitable if they had more laborers available to them. It’s impossible to see why this should be a public policy concern.

One way to test if there is a labor shortage on farms would be to look at the labor cost. If farms were truly struggling to find enough workers, their labor costs would be skyrocketing. But that isn’t what’s happening.

The costs of workers hired directly by the farms didn’t grow at all between 2010 and 2011, according to the latest data from the Department of Agriculture. It contracted 3.8 percent, from $23.5 billion to $22.6 billion. Next year it is forecast by the Department of Agriculture to shrink by another 2.1 percent. In light of the rising revenues and profits of farms, this is not a labor market experiencing a worker shortage.

What’s more, the total cost of hired labor on farms nationwide is still below pre-crisis levels, while farm profits are well above pre-crisis levels. This implies that far from farms seeing a labor shortage, there’s something of a farm labor glut going on.

In California last year, despite all the talk of a farm labor shortage, hired labor costs dropped from $6.2 billion to $5.4 billion—a 12 percent fall. This isn’t what happens in a labor shortage.

There has been some wage inflation in a far smaller segment of the farm labor market: the contract labor market. This is the market for workers employed by third-party operators who supply labor to farmers, mostly for seasonal work such as harvesting.

Farms nationwide saw contract labor costs rise from 3.9 billion in 2010 to 4.5 billion in 2011, a rise of 15 percent. That might put some farmers off a bit, having to pay the guy supplying workers 15 percent more. But revenues were rising even faster, which is why profits grew so explosively.

In California, contract labor costs grew 19 percent. While that seems astounding, it growth pales in comparison with the growth of profits at California farms. There may be fewer laborers than farmers would like, but this isn’t a crisis by any means. The farm owners are doing quite well for themselves and shouldn't be shocked that the migrant laborers are also demanding to share in the bounty.

It’s just basic economics. The overall cost of labor on farms is falling. The cost of seasonal labor is rising but at a rate far less than revenues. That implies that supply of labor is outstripping demand. Which is to say, farmers may be screaming about labor shortages but their checkbooks are telling a very different story.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - agriculture