Shortage of farm workers to pick strawberries
WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- It is peak season for strawberries, but there is a shortage of farm workers to pick them. Growers say that's tied to the contentious battle over immigration reform and tighter borders.
Buscas trabajo? Looking for work? This is the first time ever signs like this one have popped up next to the strawberry fields. It's coming up on peak season, and there is a shortage of strawberry pickers in Watsonville. Growers are recruiting aggressively, offering valuable perks.
"There's some farmers that do provide health care, they have their own clinics; they have a lot of services, discounts," California Strawberry Commission spokesperson Sergio Sanchez said.
There's higher pay as well. Two growers are even planning a vehicle drawing to retain workers. The problem, according to work force experts, is the improving Mexican economy and greater difficulty crossing the U.S. border. The 400 family-owned strawberry growers need between 25,000 and 30,000 workers at peak season.
The shortage stretches beyond this area.
"Santa Maria, a grower there has 200 jobs available; he doesn't have the people so he decided to cut 25 acres of his harvest this year," Sanchez said. "That's just a response from him. He would love to have 200 workers."
Watsonville's strawberry growers worry some of their crop won't get picked and go to waste. It costs them $18,000-$20,000 an acre to plant and cultivate their fields.
That could ultimately push up prices for fresh strawberries
Strawberry field crews are an elite group. They can make $12-$25 an hour, but not everyone has the skill or experience to pick the numbers required to reach that pay level, a combination of a base and piece rate. The tight labor market lets them choose where they will work.
The California Strawberry Commission is taking the labor shortage to Washington next week to engage with lawmakers to try to convince them that the problem should also be part of the discussion on immigration reform.
food, immigration, watsonville, central valley, jobs, business, david louie
- Family: Children's Hospital calls girl 'dead' 41 min ago
- BART Board president wants to ban transit strikes
- Dozens hurt after London theater partially collapsed 39 min ago
- 'Duck Dynasty' fans react to Robertson's hiatus
- 'Wonder Girl' cancer patient is inspiration for Vallejo
- Report says bullying of American-Islamic kids on rise
- 1 dead, dozens hurt in California bus crashes
- Seismic saddles in place on new Bay Bridge
- Only On 7: Sneak peek at the SF Zoo's baby gorilla
- 7 On Your Side looks into Lyft's donation policy
- abcnews: Dennis Rodman does karaoke in NKorea
- Bay Area New Year's Eve fireworks and events
- roundup: Toy drive in need; Timeshare sales scam
- weather: Bay Area weather forecast for Friday
Most Viewed StoriesMost Viewed Photos