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Michigan Migrant Worker Conditions Deplorable

March 25, 2010

On Monday, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a report on the living and working conditions of migrant and seasonal workers in Michigan. The report, which is based in part on the testimony of migrant workers, provides some of the most critical assessments of migrant worker conditions in decades in the state.

Some of the reports major findings are:

  • People are forced to live in sub-standard housing conditions, including structural defects, overcrowding, close proximity to pesticides and poor sanitation.
  • Increased risk of diseases due to poor sanitation and overcrowding in housing.
  • Lack of funding for the Funding and Staffing for the Migrant Labor Housing Program.
  • Discrimination of migrant workers because of familial status.
  • Sexual Harassment and Discrimination against female workers.
  • Wage theft of Farmworkers’ earnings.
  • The use of Child Labor.
  • Lack of enforcement of State and Federal regulations.

One statement that was quite telling in the reports makes the claim that living and working conditions in the migrant camps today is as bad if not worse than it was 40 years ago.

Local News Coverage of the Report

Considering the severity of the findings within the Michigan Civil Rights Commission report, we thought it would be useful to look at how the local news media reported on this issue.

WOOD radio ran a short story that presented little on the report’s findings and spent half of the time reflecting the response by farm bosses and the Michigan Farm Bureau. WOOD TV 8 ran story on Tuesday that provided a brief summary of the report with a follow up story on Wednesday with a response from the Michigan Farm Bureau, which says the report is “misleading and one-sided.”

WZZM 13 followed a similar pattern by running a brief story followed by a response from the Michigan Farm Bureau. The exact same story was run on WXMI 17, which suggests that some of the local news agencies were running a version of a Press Release put out by the Michigan Farm Bureau.

The Grand Rapids Press ran a longer story that cited several members of the Civil Rights Commission, but spent little text on what the actual findings of the report were.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. anna landry permalink
    May 27, 2011 1:11 am

    if they dont like the conditions then they need to stay in their country and maybe some jobless american would gladly do the work

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    May 27, 2011 1:47 am

    Anna, it is not just a question that they don’t like the work conditions, it is a violation of US and International Law. If any worker can be exploited then we are all at risk of being exploited. As to your other point that jobless Americans would do the work this is just patently false. White Americans by enlarge will not work for less than minimum wage doing difficult work for 10 – 12 hours a day. Lastly, people come to the US, particularly from Mexico because NAFTA has forced millions of farmers off their land by flooding the Mexican market with cheap, subsidized US corn. If we want people in Mexico to stay in their country then we should repeal NAFTA, since he does not benefit workers there or here.


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