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Farm owners continue to receive coverage in light of migrant worker report

March 29, 2010

As we reported on Thursday, the local news media’s response to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission report on migrant labor and living conditions gave significant print space and broadcast time to farm bosses, particularly the Michigan Farm Bureau.

On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press gave even more print space to farm owners who “object” to the new report on migrant labor and living conditions. In a front-page article of the Business section the headline reads, “Farmer objects to state’s review of seasonal worker conditions.”

The story begins with a farmer complaining that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission report “is a bad characterization of farmers. It makes it sound like we don’t care about our workers.” The article also reiterates the comments by the Michigan Farm Bureau that earlier in the week said the report was “skewed.”

Later in the article the Press reporter does cite a lawyer with the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project who said that the report is reflective of what she characterized as “problem farms.” The Press article does near the very end state, “Although mostly critical of migrant worker conditions, the commission acknowledged that visits to Michigan farms yielded “a wide spectrum of living and working conditions.”

In fact, the report cites examples of farms that treat workers well. However, it seems as though some farm owners and the Michigan Farm Bureau are not tolerant of any serious criticism of their industry, since they have been aggressively responding to the claims made in the report.

Absent from the story on Saturday and the initial coverage were any voices of migrant workers and their families. It is worth asking weather or not migrant workers would get the same amount of coverage if they objected to claims being made by farm owners.

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