Jobless Rate Soars in West-Side Towns Because of Drought

July 1, 2008 8:34:11 PM PDT
Drought conditions coupled with a reduced water supply is leading to massive job layoffs on the valley's west-side. Mendota is a town of 9-thousand people which grows by about four-thousand people during the peak harvest season.But without enough water crop production is way down and the work has dried up as well.

Throughout the streets of Mendota you're seeing a lot more people milling about because there's not enough work to go around.

City Councilman Leo Capuchino said "We see people hanging around certain stores around town waiting for someone to come by and say come to work or pick them up and take them out to work. That's not happening this year."

Mendota prides itself as the cantaloupe center of the world but this year production will be down.

Many workers don't know when the next check will come. They'd normally be out working the cantaloupe or tomato fields.

But without water to finish crops, many fields have been taken out of production so workers aren't needed. Mayor Robert Silva said "This is like unemployment normally for the winter-time but we're nearing close to 40-percent because less water and also the drought condition."

Adding to the problem is September's planned closing of the Spreckel's sugar plant. Sugar beet acreage has steadily decreased in the valley. 200 more jobs will be lost as a result. Silva said "A lot of these workers have been around for years."

Councilman Capuchino added "It has an effect on everything. So we got canneries, tomatoes,. We have the packers, the shippers, the transports, the truck drivers."

Because Ag is getting more unpredictable, city leaders are trying to diversify Mendota's economy.

A planned Federal prison would add 300 jobs but not until late 2009 at the earliest.


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