The Washington Farm Labor Association really is run by lying shitheads. Twice this summer I saw buses heading north on US 97 with wraparound ads featuring WAFLA’s name, a six-foot-tall pair of cheap work boots, and the slogan, “PUTTING BOOTS ON THE GROUND.” I saw the first one at the Dorris rest area, and I recall maybe one or two dozen campesinos getting off to use the restrooms. I saw the second one rolling past the Grass Lake rest area, so I really can’t say whether it was carrying farm workers or was just for show. WAFLA has spread so many falsehoods already and derives so little of its business from actually placing farm workers with clients that it chartering an empty bus to make itself look important wouldn’t be a new frontier of dishonesty. It might not even be expensive by the group’s standards.
This bus was some of the stupidest bullshit I’ve ever seen. The driver could have piled everyone’s gear on top for a Joad family cosplay and still cleared most overpasses without knocking things off. Boots stored in the overhead luggage compartments rode in from Michoacan or wherever-the-fuck a grand total of maybe nine feet off the ground. My god, Mr. Le May, real Flying Tigers, that crew. Again, I’m not sure there was anyone but the driver aboard that second bus, and I only vaguely recall who I saw around the first because I had just woken up. These were charter buses to Yakima, not a resupply convoy to the Battle of the Bulge.
Everything about it was goddamn pathetic. This whole concept of “boots on the ground,” for example, is basically an autism-spectrum military term of art that was popularized to the point of obscene excess by neocon chickenhawks with blood on their hands during the Second Gulf War. It’s the term used by the world’s current unchallenged leaders in imperial military hubris to euphemize their history, dating back to Vietnam in the mid-1960’s, of choppering America’s young men into enemy territory as cannon fodder on behalf of distrusted parties to other countries’ internal conflicts and civil wars. WAFLA is styling itself after a faction of buffoons and psychopaths who needlessly got thousands of Americans killed and many thousands more grievously injured because they treated real-life foreign wars as a game of Risk. At the same time, it’s stealing the valor of real military commanders. It isn’t a military organization; it’s a growers’ lobby that dabbles in international farm labor contracting for show. Even with the time pressures, brokering harvest crews is quite prosaic. WAFLA is obnoxiously emo about this business. Its clients’ seasonal labor shortages, if they aren’t flat-out fabrications, are consistently the result of everyone in the industry playing chicken with the federal government over the promulgation and enforcement of immigration and labor laws.
The clear purpose of these bus wraparound graphics is to convince the public that WAFLA is importing busloads of foreign farm workers in the interest of national security. In point of fact, these buses are not being used for time-critical labor transportation. If growers faced true shortages of labor to tend or harvest truly time-critical crops, they’d pay for additional employees to fly in, point-to-point, on walk-up airfares on the next flight with available seats. They don’t do this because there are no significant farm labor shortages in the United States. The growers’ lobby has ensured that there is a consistent surplus of farm labor. For fuck’s sake, many of these operations are able to stay fully staffed by paying more or less minimum wage (often less) for backbreaking stoop labor. It’s just that they want an even steeper discount on the help than they’re currently getting, and they’re debased enough to whine and lie for it.
It bears repeating, too, that WAFLA is not in the business of keeping American Gothic throwback yeomen from going under because all the local kids have gone soft. Its clients, both for farm labor placement and for lobbying, are dominated by huge “family” farms that are socioeconomically much closer to feudal manors and even bigger corporate agribusiness concerns whose executives and managers feel no sentimentality for the land. The moment the marginal cost of hiring more pickers overshoots the net financial benefit of hiring them, they stop hiring. They do not cry over spoiled fruit. They make a great show of being offended by the wastage, but really they’re just a bit butthurt at not having had the small direct and large external costs of bringing in extra roustabouts to glean the final ten or twenty percent borne by various public treasuries. That is, if they give a damn at all: if commodity prices are down, and the marginal cost of extra field hands consequently up per dollar of unharvested produce, they sure as hell aren’t interested in losing money to help flood an already glutted market.
These scumbags are going to keep catfishing us. They’re hellbent on playing the poor family business card; this is a quick, easy way to masquerade as underdogs and, when faced with minor consequences for improvidence in the face of moral hazard that didn’t quite come through in full measure on time, martyrs. A yeomanry wouldn’t put up with this shit. Most of my friends and acquaintances probably don’t know what a yeomanry is, or why there should be one. Maybe Fabius Maximus is right, and we’ve grown irreversibly tired of the burdens of self-government. There are geographical and sociopolitical particulars that make Washington State especially prone to this sort of corporate catfishing (large, remote farms in sparsely populated parts of the east; a large urban population concentrated around Puget Sound; a growing, very politically active contingent of this urban population that is made up of deracinated strivers from out of town), but the same sorts of scummy campaigns are being run nationally by powerful organizations that are in lockstep agreement with WAFLA’s policy goals. Can we, as Americans, maybe not be such weeny, mealymouthed fuckheads about our own labor interests and rights when the agribusiness lobby goes around making up sob stories about its own martyrdom for the purpose of shutting us, Americans, out of its job markets?
That’s right. Yanqui works on farms because it’s cool agrarian Beautiful Cookbook shit, not because it’s a job. I just came across one of the most revolting winery job postings I’ve seen yet, and I’ve long been jaded. This one was from Craigslist in Spokane:
Local winery needs temporary help with harvest, crushing and pressing the grapes and cleaning up before and after. Immediate opening. Must have strong back, be physically fit and intelligent and be doing this for the love of wine, not for money. Applicants should send a detailed letter explaining why they are interested in this position and about their level of fitness as this involves manual labor moving equipment and shoveling grapes. Very demanding physical work at times. Provide reference and contact information. Work is seasonal and part time depending on when grapes are ripe and when wine is ready to be processed.
Did you catch that? “For the love of wine, not for money.” I guess these shitheads screen out workers who are seeking paid work for the love of money by paying $10 an hour in a state whose minimum wage is $9.47. Sweet Jesus, why the fuck do they think people hold jobs? It isn’t enough to be physically fit, willing, and able to report to work as scheduled and do heavy labor around dangerous equipment all day; you have to be Robert Mondavi on Xanax and occasional cappuccino uppers, a beautiful soul romantically drawn to the noble craft by the grandes traditions des cuvées de Spokane. These asshats aren’t trying to recruit an enologist or a sommelier; they need seasonal help doing the dishes, and at an hourly rate two dollars an hour lower than I’ve been paid to do less dangerous work in the same industry in a state with a lower minimum wage.
We have no ability as a polity to properly regulate our own labor markets. With attitudes like these we deserve nothing better than paramilitary invasion by MS-13.