There was a time when we tried to do this work ourselves.
It was 1965, and the U.S. government needed to solve two problems at once. The first was to get the nation’s crops picked. The second was to replace the thousands of Mexican migrant workers who had been brought in to do the job through a joint agreement with Mexico called the Bracero program. The agreement was signed during World War II to fill a labor shortage in agriculture, and it promised the workers a decent wage and living conditions, and guaranteed freedom from discrimination—“whites only” areas, for example, wouldn’t apply to them. It lasted in some form until 1964, hence the rush.
I was reminded of this program when I read this extraordinary story, written by Fortune’s Beth Kowitt and photographed by Dan Winters.
The pair traveled to the growing fields of the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, to meet the human links in the ag-food chain, the people who pick the food we put on our tables. For myriad reasons, that food has been getting cheaper. “Americans now spend less than 10% of their disposable income on what they eat,” explains Kowitt. “When researchers first began tracking this figure some 90 years ago, it was closer to 25%.”
This was a tough season for the Valley. Long before President Trump showed up last week to lobby for his border wall and put their livelihoods in further jeopardy, a fall flood and an early frost meant that the pickers, who work for pennies-per-pick, were looking at a particularly lean year.
From the story:
But in 1965, we tried to do the work ourselves.
The new program was called the A-TEAM: Athletes in Temporary Employment as Agricultural Manpower. It made similar promises to the American pickers (except for the discrimination part) which included decent accommodations, good pay, and character-building work. But the 20,000 or so hardy white California high school and college boys who were recruited to do the work didn’t last long.
“Dealing with crops which grow close to the ground requires a good deal stronger motive” than money or the prospects of a good workout, said a skeptical Detroit Free Press editorial. “Like, for instance, gnawing hunger.”
Hunger certainly motivates the current generation of Mexican-born farm workers, who believe that this work is an investment in their families. Their optimism is not unfounded: Children of farm workers typically don’t become farm workers because they’d literally rather do anything else, explains Kowitt.
Cheap, plentiful labor is essential for the agricultural sector to function. But thanks to the downward pressure on food prices, and yes, the wall, and all the immigration turmoil it represents, that pool of workers is going to dry up. There’s no A-TEAM as a plan B, either.
Click through and meet the people who picked your produce while you still can.
|Report: Community college students do well when they are admitted to elite schools|
|In fact, according to a new report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, they have higher graduating rates than incoming freshmen and students who transfer from four-year colleges. But private, elite schools typically don’t accept transfers. It’s a problem, as more and more students begin their education careers at community colleges: Some 84% of two-year colleges transferred at least one student to a four-year college in 2016, says the report. Will private institutions open their doors wider?|
|New York State will now protect minors from gay conversion therapy|
|New York is now the fifteenth state along with Washington, D.C. to vote to ban the practice. The bill was passed by the state’s Senate and will be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo next week. This form of “therapy” starts with the premise that homosexuality is a mental disorder and uses, shame, bullying, or physical discomfort – like inducing vomiting, to alter someone’s sexual behavior. But as the NY State Senate stated, “[B]eing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.”|
|Lorrie Bartlett becomes the first black board member for a major talent agency|
|Bartlett, a longtime agent with ICM and founding member of Time’s Up, joined the agency’s board as part of a broader plan to reach gender balance at the agency by 2020, particularly among its leadership ranks. She is currently a partner and the co-head of the agency’s talent department. She knows quite a bit about talent, too: Regina King, Ruth Negga, Laverne Cox, and Lucy Liu are among her clients. “Our agency should reflect the way the world looks. To have a diversity of perspectives can only enhance the way you go about doing business,” Bartlett told The Los Angeles Times. The agency reports that it’s halfway to its goal of gender parity among department heads.|
|Los Angeles Times|
|REMINDER: Future architects of color, we got you|
|The Architects Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to creating a more inclusive future for the profession by attracting and supporting a new generation of architects from a wide variety of backgrounds. To that end, they offer the Diversity Advancement Scholarship, multi-year scholarships up to $20,000, to fund accredited undergrad or graduate study. Proof positive 1968 was a magical year: The Diversity Advancement Scholarship was created in 1970 with an initial grant from the Ford Foundation after civil rights leader Whitney Young Jr. challenged architects in 1968 to do better. If this is for you, get on it! Deadline is TODAY.|
The Woke Leader
|How employers and employees can learn to trust each other again|
|Tim Ryan, PwC’s chairman, wants leaders to take a break from the conversation about AI and workforce development and talk a bit instead about the relationships they have with their tech-savvy, on-demand, largely unengaged employees. “Employers and employees don’t need each other in the same way we used to,” he says, “which has inspired a fluid, opt-in attitude toward work for many, and less employer investment in the employee experience and benefits.” His five-point plan touches on welcoming diversity, linking work to purpose, and non-linear growth opportunities. On a practical side, his idea for a new set of benefits sound terrific, and designed to address the higher costs of child and eldercare, chronic health issues, including mental and emotional, and offer student loan assistance. “These benefits should also be modular to allow employees to choose what is most important to them.”|
|World Economic Forum|
|Research: Trans children know who they are|
|The research has been scarce, and as a result, there’s been a lot of bad and potentially damaging science going around. But Kristina Olson, a psychologist at the University of Washington has been running a long term study to learn more about kids who identify with a different gender than they were assigned at birth. Now, she has a significant cohort of gender-non-conforming kids to study, many of whom she knew before they transitioned socially. “There’s a lot of public writing focused on the idea that we have no idea which of these gender-nonconforming kids will or will not eventually identify as trans,” says Olson. Her team may have provided an answer—young kids actually do understand who they are, many, quite clearly. A simple five-part survey on their feelings and preferences were enough to predict who would socially transition.|
|Today, in life goals: Meet the slow-traveling Anderson family|
|This family of five, Natalee, Ike and kids Jasmine (12), Kaylee (11), and Layton (7) were originally from Jamaica, but live in South Florida. But for the past ten months, they’ve been “slow traveling” the world, spending a month in parts of the world that are associated with their genetic heritage. The parents are digital workers, so income’s not a problem, and they have a very organized plan to keep the kids on track with their education and charitable good works. It’s been a journey: They’ve lived in Mexico, Canada, the UK, France, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, India, and Bali. “We wanted to give our children the experience of travel to foster their own unique view of the world, instead of just what we tell them or what they see on the television,” says Ike. Their photos are amazing.|