One farm worker dies on the job every day in the United States and hundreds more are injured, according to a report published this month that highlights the declining labor conditions brought about by increasing reliance on contract laborers in U.S. industries.
"At the Company's Mercy," a white paper by the Center for Progressive Reform, says that increasing use of "contingent labor" -- or short-term contractors -- rather than full time workers has allowed employers in agriculture, construction and warehousing to pay lower wages and skirt exiting regulations.
But it is the statistics on conditions for farm workers that stand out. As the report says:
These statistics paint a picture of a socioeconomically vulnerable population that is likely to endure without complaint occupational hazards that should be controlled. Given low levels of formal education, literacy, and English-language skills, a significant number of farmworkers are likely unaware of their rights under applicable occupational health and safety laws. And when jobs are scarce and wages are scant, workers are reticent to demand improved working conditions because they are fearful that such demands will lead to unemployment. Further compounding the problem, because of concerns about deportation, a substantial number of farm workers are mistrustful of government agencies that could help vindicate their rights to a safe workplace.
Perhaps most disturbing is the economic logic driving the desperate labor conditions faced by farm workers. Labor economist Philip Martin estimates that it would only cost the average household $15 per year to ensure that seasonal farm workers received wages above the federal poverty line.
Check out 12 disturbing facts about farm labor conditions from the Center for Progressive Reform's report in the slideshow above.