UFW Signs Pact with Michoacán to Recruit Farmworkers

Fresno, CA Farmers have long relied on undocumented workers to harvest their crops. The peak harvest season is still a few months away but an unstable labor supply strikes fear into farmers.

The UFW has signed a pact with the Mexican state of Michoacán to recruit farm laborers through the H-2A guest worker program. It is a program not many valley growers take part in. UFW Guestworker Program Director Erik Nicholson said "To be effective we have to create a global network to make sure the workers are treated fairly from their home. That they're not subjected to these fees. That they're not trafficked as human beings."

Tighter enforcement at the US-Mexico border and increased immigration crackdowns have reduced the number of workers willing to cross the border.

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said "There is a real fear among the workers to leave their homes, to go out there and even look for work because they could be picked up. And what happens to their children?"

Nisei Farmers League President Manuel Cunha says the UFW agreement with Michoacán is part of a growing trend which farmers are also following. Cunha predicted "We will have our own agency groups. We will have our own labor recruitment groups to bring labor here for our growers. I think the UFW, looking at that - that's where the future is going to be. They see the writing on the wall." Cunha is working with the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to bring in farm laborers this summer. Local growers say they can't afford to wait six or seven years for comprehensive immigration reform.

The UFW hopes to expand its recruiting efforts beyond Michoacan.

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