Georgia's new crackdown on illegal immigration has been law since July 1. Farmers say it's scaring away both documented and undocumented workers. And now other sectors are beginning to feel the pinch. Some businesses say without these workers, they can't get the job done.
John Barbour's company, Bold Spring Nursery, is one of those businesses. Barbour grows 200 varieties of shade trees on his 1,100-acre farm in Pulaski County, south of Macon.
It's painstaking work. Employees manually prune specimens for high-end landscapes. Barbour's trees dot the Augusta National golf course and the Washington Monument.
Driving on his farm, Barbour says he's lost five workers since May.
"We had three Latinos quit, and move out of Georgia, and say they no longer felt safe in Georgia," Barbour said, while driving around his farm last month. "They didn't walk up to me and say, 'Hey I'm here illegally and I have to get going,' but now it's probably safe to assume that was the situation."
He continues, "You could look at that and say, 'Mission accomplished, right?' That's what we are trying to do, is get rid of illegal immigrants, but..."
"Now you have to fill those jobs."
"That's right," he said.
In an attempt to replace them, Barbour hired two Americans. Tending to trees in the hot sun, they couldn't handle the same hours as he and his migrant workers.
"They lasted seven weeks," which was longer than usual, he said. "The problem was, during those seven weeks, we averaged 47 hours a week working, and they averaged 27 hours a week."
Link courtesy of elf.
I keep reminding myself that this is going to affect a lot of people who are not personally to blame for the fact that a large part of our economy is built on near-slavery and that I shouldn't be happy that they're going to suffer the economic consequences of the voting habits of Georgia racists (or at least those willing to pander to Georgia's racists). Living in Indiana, though, I am just all out of sympathy. I have heard too many people complain about how we got all these gottdamn illiguls stealin jobs and tax dollers an' we oughta just kick 'em all out.
But god fucking forbid they have to pay an extra dollar for fruit. Their racism and their reasoning are seriously not getting along here, and it's like a shit-ton of people didn't see this coming. Little known history fact: building an economy on the exploitation of people who are too desperate or scared to demand better is bad, and for more reasons than "slavery is mean."
Overall I'm just fucking pissed that we still have to contend with the "but if we end slavery, the prices of shit will go up because we'll have to treat workers like people" argument in twenty goddamn eleven.
Amusingly, just this morning I was remembering a conversation I had with Glenn Welch (the guy who writes the Things Mr. Welch is not Allowed to do in an RPG lists) about this years ago. He's one of those "ragh unlimited capitalism will solve all things because the free market is magic" guys, but he was simultaneously arguing that undocumented migrants are terrible JUST TERRIBLE because they're willing to work for less and in shitty conditions and as a result no self-respecting American can compete with them.
When I pointed out that it's ridiculous to argue that people who fail to compete in a capitalist market deserve what they get and also to argue that white American workers should be sheltered from the consequences of their failure to compete with migrant workers, he changed his tune and started talking about how awful the companies are who hire these workers to exploit them and how really we have to deport them all for their own good because illegal immigration is just so tragic. That didn't stop him from going all "THEY'RE STEALIN UR JOBS BY WINNING AT CAPITALISM OH WOE IS WHITE" on later occasions. This is typical of every conversation I have had with the kind of people whose votes are responsible for laws like Georgia's, and the one we got in Indiana more recently.
Pissed. Baffled. Also pissed.