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HELPING FARMERS: Condition of Migrant Workers Eyed in Civil Rights Report

Vital Help for Agricultural Sector Said Important to Michigan's Economy

April 7, 2013       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Lack of migrant workers has caused farmers to lose crops
 

Michigan agriculture, the state's second largest industry, needs the seasonal workers who come every year to help cultivate and harvest crops.

Lack of migrant workers has caused farmers to lose crops, such as asparagus, left to rot in the fields for want of harvesters.

Increased immigration enforcement in southern states reportedly has kept workers from showing up in Michigan as they normally did.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) recently received a report detailing three years of effort to improve the living and working conditions for the state's 90,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFW).

The report, entitled "Directors Level Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Workgroup Progress Report" highlights the work of the nine state agencies who responded to the MCRC's call to action. LINK TO ARTICLE

The agencies involved in the Workgroup are: Department of Civil Rights, Department of Human Services, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Education, Michigan State Police, the Workforce Development Agency, and the Secretary of State.

"Three years ago, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) created the Directors' Level MSFW Workgroup in response to the recommendations the Michigan Civil Rights Commission made in its report on the conditions faced by migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Michigan," the report says.

"Inspired by the Commission's findings, MSFW Workgroup members committed themselves to work together to address each of the recommendations."

The initial report, A Report on the Conditions of Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers in Michigan, was adopted in March 2010 following a year-long investigation of living and working conditions.

The report contained 15 recommendations to improve conditions for MSFWs and their families.

Among the recommendations were:

  • expanded inspections of licensed migrant housing,

  • stronger enforcement of minimum wage laws,

  • improved law enforcement training,

  • streamlined services for MSFW and

  • improved access to drinking water and sanitation.

    The report looks at the progress made on each recommendation as well as the work yet to be done.

    Progress made over the last three years includes:

    o Expansion of in-season inspections to ensure the safety of licensed MSFW housing;

    o Increased outreach to ensure the children of migrant families are enrolled in and attending school;

    o Revised guidelines for law enforcement to better clarify laws and regulations affecting the enforcement of immigration laws.

    Perhaps most important for the long-term success of coordinated efforts, the report highlights the significant improvement in coordinated efforts among the agencies since the Directors Level Workgroup began meeting.

    "One particularly striking outcome the MSFW Workgroup notes at the outset is the beneficial change that was created through the frequent contact, communication, and partnership between stakeholders," the report says in its introduction.

    "The level of trust and understanding that otherwise would not have been possible without the focus created by the Commission's recommendations is considerable, and the effects of that trust profound."

    To read the recent report and the original 2010 report, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

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    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
    respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
    (Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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